Final consultation on
C’wealth marine reserves
THE final round of public commentary on the Gillard government’s plans to create the world’s biggest network of marine reserves has begun.
On June 14, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the details of the government’s proposed network of marine reserves which – once proclaimed under national environmental law – will increase Australia’s marine reserve network to cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters.
The Director of National Parks yesterday (Wednesday) published a notice in the Australian Government Gazette inviting members of the public to comment on the marine reserves proposal.
Mr Burke says the Gillard government has conducted a long and detailed consultation process in developing this final proposed network of Commonwealth marine reserves, consulting with thousands of people at more than 250 meetings.
“For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks and we now have an incredible opportunity to protect the unique marine life in our oceans,” says Mr Burke.
“We can ensure that Australia leads the world in marine protection.
“The key principle for me now is very straightforward: ‘Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?’.”
Australia’s national environmental law requires that one more round of consultation occurs before the marine reserves network can be proclaimed.
The 60-day public consultation process will be conducted by the Director of National Parks. It began yesterday and will close on Monday, September 10.
At the conclusion of this 60-day consultation, the Director of National Parks is required to prepare a report for the Minister detailing the comments he has received and his advice on those comments.
Mr Burke says the government has worked with communities to, wherever possible, avoid having an impact on local jobs and people who love to fish.
“We want our marine reserves network to support a sustainable future for our marine environment and ensure our oceans stay healthy and productive,” he says.
“A total of 96 per cent of commonwealth waters within 100 kilometres offshore remain open to recreational fishers and in most cases you have to travel hundreds of kilometres before you hit a new highly protected marine national park zone.”
On the East Coast the closest marine national parks in the new network are 200km offshore.
“The impact on the commercial fishing sector has been restricted to just over around 1 per cent of annual catch and the department is currently working with the industry to establish how adjustment assistance will be delivered to businesses that are likely to be affected,” Mr Burke says.
Once the reserves are proclaimed under Australia’s national environment law, the next step will be to develop management plans for the reserves in each region.
Further information at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/reserves/index.html.