Burke rejects Senate scrutiny of Marine Parks

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has rejected calls for a Senate committee to examine his plans for a massive system of marine parks covering almost 1.5m sq km of ocean around the nation.

Opposition Senator Ron Boswell yesterday referred the Government’s Marine Bioregional Plans to the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs Committee, a move which is supported by the Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA).

“Tony Burke has already issued interim maps of the marine parks. He is able to do so at the stroke of a pen, without any Parliamentary scrutiny or legislation,” Senator Boswell said.

“These closures are some of the largest in the world. The repercussions need to be scrutinised by a Senate Committee. Recreational and professional fishermen also should have the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee on what effect these closures are going to have … and put their concerns on the record.”

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Senator Ron Boswell

Minister Burke yesterday told Fisho that he reckoned “Ron Boswell would have had trouble keeping a straight face when writing that release. He knows full well that the process of bioregional planning didn’t start with me, it started under the Howard Government. He knows that the obligations and the process were driven by legislation put in place by the Howard Government.”

The Minister highlighted the fact that the new system of marine parks would have minimal impact on recreational fishing activities, despite attempts by US-funded anti-fishing groups such as Pew lobbying hard for all fishing to be banned in areas such as the Coral Sea.

“(Ron Boswell) also knows that a significant number of the zones where there is a change in commercial take but no change in access for recreational fishers is a significant improvement in fish stocks available for people who love to go out on a tinny and enjoy fishing,” the Minister said.

“But unfortunately even though Ron has a record over the years of being supportive of recreational fishers he is willing to ditch them the moment politics takes over.”

There was already an extensive consultation process in place, Minister Burke said, and “recreational fishers from all around the country have been engaged in it”.

Although recent comments from the Minister supporting continued recreational fishing in the planned marine parks has been welcomed by anglers and the fishing tackle industry, AFTA CEO Allan Hansard said he supported an inquiry into the Government’s marine protection plans as a way of ensuring the views of Australia’s recreational fishers and the businesses and communities that support them are heard and understood by policy makers and politicians.

“The importance of the Marine Bioregional Planning process should not be underestimated,” Hansard said.

“It is one of the largest resource and environmental planning processes ever conducted in Australia, and will have implications for all Australians for decades to come. It will have implications for every one of the 5 million Australians estimated to go fishing each year. It will also have implications for the thousands of workers and communities spread across Australia who support the recreational fishing sector, a contribution that is estimated to exceed $10 billion annually.”

Hansard said he looked “forward to appearing before the Committee and working constructively with the Government and Opposition in ensuring the important voice of Australia’s 5 million recreational fishers is heard on this important issue”.

As the peak national body currently representing angler interests, AFTA recently released a policy platform on marine parks. This platform is designed to guide policy makers in developing marine parks policies and details the need for comprehensive scientific analysis to underpin decisions surrounding the creation of marine parks before AFTA will consider supporting them.

AFTA CEO Allan Hansard.

For details on this policy platform, go to afta.net.au.

Editor’s note: Around the time we published this story, Senator Boswell’s office issued a press statement that said that by delaying the vote it would give fishermen and
the industry an opportunity to voice their concerns about these marine parks and more time to push for a Senate inquiry. It is expected that the public will be invited to provide input into the government’s national bioregional marine reserve. The process is expected to include a formal statutory consultation of at least 60 days.
Senator Boswell stressed that recreational fishermen who will be affected by no-take green fishing zones, should contact members and Minister Burke with their demand for a Senate inquiry, in order to give the referral of the Marine Bioregional Plan the best possible chance of being approved in the future.

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