WA fishing groups welcome marine parks decision

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoA marine expert claims the full protection area around Ningaloo and other marine parks would be slashed by more than 40 per cent under the Federal Government’s draft zoning.

The defeat of motions seeking to block watering down of protections in sensitive marine areas such as the Ningaloo Reef has been welcomed by WA’s recreational and commercial fishing industry groups.

Five new management plans, two of which are off the WA coast, were introduced by the Federal Government with an aim to strike a balance between conservation and industry.

WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson introduced five disallowance motions to the Senate to stop plans to increase commercial fishing and other activities, but were defeated in the Senate 36 votes to 29 last Thursday night.

Sunset at Geographe Bay.
Camera IconSunset at Geographe Bay. Credit: WA News

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Ms Pratt said the changes revoked about 40 million hectares of high-level national marine parks.

“There is not a government anywhere in the world that has ever removed this much area, land or sea, from conservation,” she said.

“Recreational fishers have now lost the largest recreation-only fishing area in the world, and large-scale industrial fishing and super trawlers have now received a standing invitation from this government to exploit Australia's marine life.

“I can tell every senator in this place that this issue does not die with a decision on this disallowance.”

An aerial view of Ningaloo Reef.
Camera IconAn aerial view of Ningaloo Reef. Credit: WA News

RecFishWest operations manager Leyland Campbell said any further efforts to derail the management plans would undermine years of consultation.

“For Ningaloo, what it does is... rather than having a multitude of zones where you don’t know what you can do we now have two zones,” he said.

“In Geographe Bay what it does is allow mums and dads in small boats a bit more security in knowing where they can fish.

“The current plans in place are the most fair and equitable of any proposed.”

West Australian Fishing Industry Council chief executive John Harrison rubbished suggestions the changes would lead to over fishing.

“The management regime for fisheries here in Australia is world class,” he said.

“This has been going on a hell of a long time and the industry was over it.

Mr Harrison said having certainty around marine parks management would give industry confidence to invest.

Assistant Environment Minister Melissa Price said the motions would have stripped protections from 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean.

“Our management plans enable recreational fishers to access 97 per cent of Commonwealth waters within 100 kilometres of the coast and 80 per cent of the marine park network overall,” she said.

“Additionally, we have opened 17 per cent more of the total area of marine parks to commercial fishing compared to what Labor proposed in 2012.”

Ms Price said a $35 million package would help commercial fishers adjust to the new arrangements.

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