The time-honoured tradition of throwing a line in the ocean is not threatened by sealing off up vast sections of Australian waters for environmental protection, the federal government says.
Environment Minister Tony Burke today announced the final boundaries for a massive new network of marine parks; the ocean equivalent of the iconic national park system. The protected areas cover 2.3 million square kilometres – about a third of the size of the Australian mainland - off the NSW, South Australian, Western Australian and Northern Territory coasts.
“We need to appreciate that in the years to come, we don’t want people to only know the magnificence of their oceans through aquariums or by watching Finding Nemo,” Mr Burke said this morning.
He again sought to ease concerns the changes would hurt recreational fishers. There are an estimated five million recreational fishers across the country. They would still be able to access about 96 per cent of all waters within 100km of the shore, Mr Burke said.
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Earlier this week, a concerned woman asked the minister at a public meeting north of Brisbane whether her sons would be stopped from casting a line.
“I was able to explain that from where we we're standing, you had to go somewhere between three and four hundred kilometres offshore before you got to the first place where someone wouldn’t be allowed to throw out a line if they were out there were on a tinnie,” Mr Burke said.
“We’ve put (the protected zones) in areas where by and large we are not talking about a significant impact on recreational fishing, at all.”
However, the new network will impact commercial fishing operators. In response, the government today pledged a $100 million compensation package.
However, the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, which represents commercial fishers, is angry the package does not compensate businesses which lose less than $5000 as a result of the new zones.
“That’s appalling,” said the group’s chair, Martin Exel, in a statement.
“Everyone impacted negatively by these new reserves should be recompensed. That goes for the fishermen, their crews, regional communities, suppliers and truck drivers that deliver the fish.”
Mr Burke said the oceans faced a serious and growing environmental threat. The quality of a bucket of sea water drawn from an Australian ocean today is far poorer than one taken 100 years ago, he said.
“In that time, the bucket of water from the same ocean is (now) chemically different, biologically different and physically different,” he said.
“It contains more acid, it contains much more plastic and it contains less life. There are a range of actions that need to be taken to turn the corner on the health of our oceans. Establishing national parks in our oceans is a big part of that total picture.”
The boundaries will become law as of midnight tonight.
THE NEW REGIONS:
The Coral Sea Region
The ‘jewel in the crown’ of the network, this marine park covers an area of more than half the size of Queensland. It supports critical nesting sites for the green turtle and is renowned for its diversity of big predatory fish and sharks. The marine park network includes protection for all reefs in the Coral Sea, including iconic reefs such as Osprey Reef, Marion Reef, Bougainville Reef, Vema Reef, and Shark Reef.
The South-West Marine Region
Extending from South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia, this marine park is of global significance as a breeding and feeding ground for protected marine species such as southern right whales, blue whales and the Australian Sea Lion. Features include the Perth Canyon – an underwater area bigger than the Grand Canyon – and the Diamantina Fracture Zone – a large underwater mountain chain.
The Temperate East Marine Region
Running from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to Bermagui in southern New South Wales, this area includes the waters surrounding Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. It is home to the critically endangered grey nurse shark, the vulnerable white shark and has important offshore reef habitat at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs and Lord Howe Island that support the threatened black cod.
The North Marine Region
This vast marine park includes Commonwealth waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea, extending as far west as the Northern Territory-Western Australian border. Globally important foraging and resting areas for threatened marine turtle species including flatback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles will be protected. So too will foraging areas for breeding colonies of migratory seabirds and large aggregations of dugongs.
The North-West Marine Region
This area stretches from the Western Australian-Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay in Western Australia, and is home to the whale shark, the world's largest fish, and provides protection to the world's largest population of humpback whales that migrate annually from Antarctica to give birth in the water off the Kimberley.
The South-East Marine Region
Extends from the far south coast of New South Wales, around Tasmania and to South Australia. It includes the Commonwealth waters of Bass Strait and waters surrounding Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean. Significant variations in water depth and sea-floor features found throughout the South-east Marine Region contribute to the high level of species diversity in the region. The threatened southern right whale and other migratory species, such as southern bluefin tuna, great white sharks and the wandering albatross travel through this area on their long journeys across the ocean.