DAMON Olsen, the proprietor of well known sports fishing charter business Nomad Sportfishing Adventures, has slammed the Federal Government’s proclamation of a national marine reserves network.
While Environment Minister Tony Burke announced last Friday what he called “the most complete network of marine parks in the world”, Olsen, like many opposed to the parks, say their proclamation is based on “dodgy science”.
The reserves will take in 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean around Australia from July 2014, bringing the total protected area to 3.1 million square kilometres.
But Damon Olsen says there is no credible science behind many of the new marine reserves – especially in the Coral Sea where his business operates.
“I’ve attended several meetings in the last year with Tony Burke as part of the recreational fishing lobby and the short story is that we’re very disappointed there hasn’t been any credible science behind these marine reserves in the Coral Sea,” Olsen told news.com.au.
“Pick a marine scientist who doesn’t work for the Government and ask them what they think of it and they will say the evidence is marginal at best and dodgy at worst.
“The Minister has the right to proclaim these parks without the need to go through parliament, and with the Labor party in power with Greens preferences, if they don’t do what the Greens tell them they’ll have problems.
“Don’t worry about the facts, don’t worry about the science.”
But Labor and Greens politicians in Canberra swear the science is right.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said: “It is good to see the Government and Minister Burke finalise this plan, in spite of the ongoing and ill-informed scare campaign that has been run by some sectors.
“Effective marine protection is absolutely essential for the maintenance of long-term fish stocks and biodiversity which supports sustainable industry and communities around our coastline.
“This plan is a good foundation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of marine protected areas that prioritises long term sustainability and conservation.”
Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell isn’t buying a word of that.
Senator Boswell says there is no evidence that setting aside special marine protection zones will do anything to preserve fish stocks.
“The fish do not know where the lines on the map are,” he told news.com.au.
“They swim in and out of the zones and quite frankly, if you exclude fisherman from the zones, they’ll all just go into other areas.”
Senator Boswell worries for Australia’s five million recreational anglers, and has grave concerns for fishing tourism operators like Damon Olsen.
“We’ve been sport fishing in the Coral Sea for 10 years and take 350-400 per year, of which 30 to 50 per cent come from overseas,” Olsen says.
“We employ 15 people, and while we knew this was coming so we haven’t had to lay anyone off, we are worried about the future.
“The big impact from a business point of view is the perception of Australia as a tourism fishing destination. We’ve been getting emails from people saying ‘what’s going on?’ Their perception is that Australia is closed to fishing.
“You can imagine how this is portrayed overseas. Don’t worry about ads that say ‘where the bloody hell are you?’, we’re effectively now saying ‘p— off we don’t want you’.”