by Jeni Bone
In what is being described by Australian marine industry proponents as 'a knee jerk reaction', 'placating the Greens' and a 'distraction from the Carbon Tax', the marine park announcement has hit the fishing and marine industries like a sledge hammer.
Commercial fishing could lose 70 boats and thousands of jobs
It’s 'another nail in the coffin of the Australian marine industry by a very poorly informed government who are led by the green faction', said one marine business operator on Queensland's Gold Coast.
While Minister Tony Burke assures recreational anglers and boaties that they have no need to worry, since '5kms from the coast come under state jurisdiction', commercial fishing industry and its supply chain – the broader marine industry - plainly believes it has every reason for concern.
Brian Jeffriess, Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association CEO and Commonwealth Fisheries Association described the Federal announcement as 'purely symbolic'.
'There’s no logic to the plans. We are shocked and dismayed,' he told MarineBusiness-World. 'Very large areas are completely closed, whereas we expected them to be smaller than they eventuated. This is about being the ‘biggest and best in the world’, chest-beating. This is not based on science and there was no thought given to the commercial seafood industry. The outcome should have been a lot better.'
Many regions and communities will be affected, continued Jeffriess. 'WA shark fishing and SA rock lobster, long line tuna fishing in Queensland and south-west WA – all the key areas.
‘These will be wiped out completely or rendered not viable. Where is the adjustment assistance package that was supposed to be announced at the same time as the boundaries?
‘They have always done that, such as in the automotive industry. It could be 12 to 18 months away. There is no allowance in the 2013 budget of government expenditure for compensation. Working groups and costings have not even started.'
In his opinion, 'balance has to be key'.
'It’s proven that our fishing methods have no impact on the environment. We have asked them for two years to tell us where they have impacted and nobody has ever come up with an answer. This is about being bigger and better, beating its chest when Australians are trying to make a living.
'People are already deserting the industry in droves. What future can you have in this time of uncertainty? Regional communities are in limbo. Thousands of families, hundreds of companies will be impacted. Jobs will be lost in these regions, where sometimes the commercial fishing fleet and processors are the largest employer.
'All we can say to the Government is to please, please, please consider changing the boundaries. Oil and gas and international non-government organisations have been able to leverage their interests. The fishing industry has always been a soft target.'
For the seafood eating public, Jeffriess said they will be forced to buy more imported seafood from unsustainable fisheries, with prices reflecting the cost of bringing the fish and other seafood to Australia.
Dean Logan, CEO of Australian Marine Alliance referred to figures that predict coastal communities will be devastated by the loss of 36,000 jobs and more than $4.35 billion in lost revenue for commercial and recreational fishers.
And while the Prime Minister assured people yesterday they would 'still be able to go and take their young son fishing' and the plan would only affect about one per cent of current commercial fishing activity, the Australian Marine Alliance, which represents commercial and recreational fishers, estimates 70 trawlers will go out of business.
'That equates about thousands of jobs across the industry,' said Logan. 'This is devastating and those that will suffer most will be coastal communities. Tony Burke has just single-handedly lost the election for the Gillard government.'
Commenting on the compensation package this morning, Logan pointed out 'the Great Barrier Reef compensation for displacement was about $220m and that was just one piece of ocean'.
'The Commonwealth has taken legal advice and only the commercial fishing industry is entitled to compensation, not the broader marine industry – outboards, boat manufacturers, retailers.'
Compensation is a complex issue, he continued. 'There’s a lot of latent effort, dormant licenses, which need to be bought out too. They have greatly underestimated compensation. Minister Burke estimates only 1% net loss with commercial industry – which is sheer nonsense.
‘And while there will be a loss of about 70 trawlers, the Federal Government has just approved the massive, Dutch owned super trawler – Margiris – controlled by Australian commercial operators. THAT is pure hypocrisy.
Marine Parks offer no protection to the environment in the case of pollution and oil spills. 'A marine zone is not going to protect an ecosystem from oil spills.'
Logan continued: 'Fishing is not an irreversible threat anywhere in Australian waters. We’ve got quotas and world class fisheries management. Australia imports in excess of 75% of our seafood, we have some of the world’s most comprehensive fisheries management regimes, toughest environmental policies and yet the environmental lobby would want you to think eating fish is bad. We believe sustainable fishing is achievable and we are here to provide a balanced response.
Sydney Fish Markets
'We should be injecting more money in to aquaculture and the government should be supporting aquaculture to ensure food security in this country.'
Marine scientist Dr Ben Diggles described the process and subsequent announcement as 'purely political'.
'There’s no science involved, it’s just moving lines on maps. The scientists the government has enlisted have PEW pulling all the strings. PEW have been very proficient.'
Diggles has been warning industry about the looming threat of marine parks for years. 'As I see it, there are 60 days left to do something, but we are combating mass brain washing that people think the only way to save something is to lock it up – that’s the PEW message. And they have billions to fund them.'
Ray Hilborn, Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington specializing in natural resource management was recently in New Zealand and Australia, commented that there are many examples of successfully managed fisheries.
He stated that marine parks don't necessarily protect environmentally sensitive ecosystems, in fact, creating more marine parks do little to protect the environment and may even be counterproductive.
'When you're not over fishing, marine parks simply reduce the amount of fish yield you can get by locking up areas. And the result is that you're going to have less seafood produced in Australia and you will need to import more from places that are typically much less sustainably managed.'
Prof Ray Hilborn in NZ to deliver his comparative report
Speaking to the fishery division of the CSIRO, Professor Holborn stated: 'Whatever the environmental concerns are about fishing, we know how to regulate those. Sustainable fishing is not incompatible with very healthy ecosystems.'
While in New Zealand, Professor Hilborn delivered a report which rated the country’s seafood as ‘green protein’ and evaluated the environmental cost of New Zealand food.
Entitled 'The Environmental Cost of New Zealand Food Production', the study measures the environmental impacts of harvesting wild fisheries with results showing fewer impacts than the production of alternative forms of animal protein.
'This report looks at all the studies we could find on the environmental impacts of New Zealand fish, dairy and meat production to either the farm gate or the dock and the results are readily apparent; wild fisheries simply do not impact the environment in many ways.'
Chief Executive of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, Peter Bodeker says the report’s findings set the environmental record straight, adding 'New Zealand seafood is an excellent protein choice not only for its obvious health attributes but also for its low environmental impact.'
Sunfish Queensland chief executive Judy Lynne believes the ban on commercial use will result in more foreigners fishing illegally. 'This is about a green push ... it's ridiculous,' she said on ABC Radio.
Nationals senator, Ron Boswell says the Opposition will fight the plan at every step. Nationals leader, Warren Truss said the plan to create 44 marine parks was all about giving Prime Minister Julia Gillard something to crow about at next week’s United Nations environment summit in Brazil.
The Australian Greens said the government had caved in to the oil and gas industry by leaving off critically important areas near Ningaloo, Pilbara and the Kimberley in WA.
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said the plan would make Australia a global leader in ocean protection, despite the northwest region being still vulnerable to the threats of oil and gas exploration.