Turnbull threat to marine parks

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The Greens (WA) say it is vital that disallowance motions lodged by the party succeed in stopping the Federal Government’s new plans for marine parks and reserves.

Greens (WA) Fisheries and Marine spokesman Diane Evers said vast areas of national marine parks around WA, as well as Australia, could be made available to fishing and mining in the Federal Government bid to roll back protection regulations.

She said the Turnbull government changes, due to come into effect from July, will strip back highest level protections in environmentally sensitive areas of marine parks across the country.

The parks would also be open to applications for commercial fishing including trawling, and oil and gas exploration and mining.

“The Greens have been quick to act and have put up the disallowance motions in an eleventh-hour bid to stop the plans, which would increase the total area of marine parks open to fishing from 64 to 80 per cent,” she said.

“We have a few weeks to lobby crossbenchers and sectors of the industry.

“If the Greens’ disallowances fail, this plan could in principle be locked in for a number of years. If the disallowances succeed, it would mean an opportunity to get it right, and build on more than a decade of public consultations, and decades of research already undertaken.”

Under the proposal, green zones, which offer the highest protection, will be reduced but yellow zones, which allow for use but protect the seafloor, will be increased.

The plans cover Commonwealth waters off the coast of Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory starting about five kilometres offshore.

These include those near Ningaloo Reef and Perth Canyon (Two Rocks). While Ningaloo Reef itself is protected under WA state law, the Gascoyne marine park west of Ningaloo would have the protections proposed in the 2012 plan reduced by 73 per cent, with a large area to remain open to recreational fishing.

Under the plan, Mermaid Reef marine reserve, off Broome, designated a sanctuary zone (pink) in the 2012 plan, will be downgraded to a national park (green), with recreational boating and commercial shipping allowed to transit through, and the pumping out and refilling of ballast tanks and the disposal of certain kinds of boating waste in the area also allowed.

Meanwhile, no-take zones set up to limit fishing in Geographe Bay have been scrapped. The area is frequented by about 30,000 humpback whales as they move down the WA coast to migrate, proving a major drawcard for tourists.


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