Abbott: Coalition to suspend lockout if elected

According to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, if elected a Coalition government would immediately suspend the bioregional marine planning process that threatens to extend marine parks along Australia’s coastline.

The Opposition Leader said this week in the Australian that the fishing and tourism industries were under threat from protection orders limiting fishing.

Abbott said a Coalition government would open “serious consultation” with affected industries and communities before declaring any marine protection areas. (The Coalition’s policy on marine parks can be downloaded below)

Abbott conceded the Howard government had begun the process of establishing marine parks, but said Labor had not adopted a balanced approach.

The Opposition Leader said “the whole of Australia’s coastal waters, right around our continent, from the three mile limit to the edge of the 200 mile economic zone” were potentially subject to marine protection area orders.

“They can range right up to a no-take zone, which obviously would be extremely damaging for our fishing and tourism industries which would rely on these waters being open and available.

“The Coalition in government will immediately suspend the marine protection area process which is threatening the livelihoods of many people in the fishing industry, many people in the tourism industry, and which is threatening to lock up our oceans.”

Abbott made the announcement while campaigning in Mackay, where he filleted a barramundi at the local fishworks.

“Certainly this is an issue which is deeply troubling regional Australia. And it’s deeply troubling a whole lot of people who enjoy fishing.

“It’s very important that we don’t do anything as a government that unreasonably threatens the livelihood of the fishing industries and the tourism industries on which so much of Australia depends.”

The Opposition Leader’s announcement has upset conservation groups with a press release issued by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) stating it was deeply disappointed by this “policy reversal”.

“Australia’s seas are unique, under threat and under-protected. The Coalition is calling for a more balanced approach to marine conservation, but there’s nothing balanced about only protecting 5% of our marine life,” said Darren Kindleysides, Director of AMCS.

On the Liberal Leader’s election promise a spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett told Fisho this afternoon, “Mr Abbott and the Coalition have been caught out again making it up as they go and disguising thought bubbles as policy.

“What Tony Abbott has done today us turn his back on a process started under the Howard Government to establish National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

“The trick here from Mr Abbott is that he has suspended a process started under Mr Howard without saying what his alternative process will be if he were to win Government.

“The Government is committed to a process which gets the balance right to ensure the fishing industry can stay sustainable into the future while at the same time protecting our unique marine environment.

“The Government is engaged in a thorough, comprehensive and ongoing program of engagement and consultation with a range of stakeholders. No decisions on marine planning will be made until that process is concluded. Mr Abbott and the Coalition are simply scaremongering and creating confusion.

“We need to maintain the overall health of our fish stocks right around Australia so the families and the industry and can keep on fishing.

“The Government is already undertaking a thorough consultation process with the community designed to strike a balance between multiple use areas where fishing can continue and highly protected areas, ” the spokesman concluded.

The Coalition’s Marine Parks policy can be downloaded HERE.

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