Government to refer to Pew commissioned report

The Gillard government has conceded it will use a report commissioned by the Pew environment group – calling for no fishing in at least 50 per cent of a vast area off the South and Western Australian coasts – as a consideration in its planning of marine reserves.

Nationals Senator Ron Boswell asked the Environment Minister’s representative in the Senate, Senator Stephen Conroy, whether a report by the Ecology Centre of the University of Queensland for the PEW Charitable Trusts, made public last week and calling for at least 50 per cent of the 1.2 million square kilometre South-West Marine Bioregion to be no-take, would be a consideration in the development of the government’s plans.

Senator Conroy said yesterday he was not aware of the detail of the report but said “it will be being considered” by the Government. Today he added to that answer and said the report was one of many inputs to the planning process.

Senator Boswell predicted there would be a massive and nationwide revolt by both commercial and recreational fishermen if the plans for any of the network of marine reserves now being developed around Australia “even vaguely reflected” the Ecology Centre’s bid for 50 per centclosures.

However, he welcomed a clear and unambiguous commitment from Senator Conroy to government financial support for businesses impacted by the establishment of marine reserves. Senator Conroy said the government “has committed to minimising economic and social impacts and providing assistance to those where impacts cannot be avoided.”

Senator Boswell said this clear statement would provide some comfort to fishers and other business operators who might be impacted by the establishment of marine reserves.

“Until Senator Conroy gave this undertaking in the Senate the government had repeatedly and pointedly refused to give any undertaking at all on structural adjustment or compensation, simply indicating that it was considering its policy position.

“It’s very important that an undertaking has now been given. It must act as a natural constraint on the government in terms of the scale of closures. Closures in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park cost the former government over $250 million. Closures on the scale being sought by PEW and the Greens would cost billions.”

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