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The new Marine Reserves strike a better balance between all users: recreation and commercial fishers, conservation and broader community use.

The Australian Government has increased ‘habitat protection zones’ (yellow), which allow fishing in the water column, while still protecting important species and ecosystems on the sea floor.  Please see: http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/marine/marine-reserves/your-marine-parks

We are protecting important habitats and species in our marine parks by:

• designating 68 per cent of these marine parks as highly protective green and yellow zones. (2012 zoning was 60 per cent green and yellow zones);
• declaring more conservation features as ‘no-take’ zones than were covered by the 2012 plans; and
• closing a greater proportion of marine parks to oil and gas extraction (from 60 per cent in 2012 to 73 per cent exclusion).

Australia has the second largest marine protected area in the world, just behind the United States. Some 3.3 million square kilometres in size, it is a wondrous marine habitat that is at the heart of our nation’s biodiversity and the health of its ecosystem.

Now, after more than three years of consultation, an independent scientific review, public forums around the country and 130,000 written submissions, the government has tabled in Parliament management plans for 44 marine parks.

From the Coral Sea in the east, to Ningaloo Reef in the west and the Great Australian Bight in the south, these world-class management plans reflect a balanced, scientific, evidence-based approach.

Under these plans, 36 per cent of Australian waters are included in marine parks. This is well ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s “Aichi target” of 10 per cent by 2020 and a recent World Conservation Congress resolution, calling for 30 per cent by 2030.

When the Gillard Government released draft management plans in 2012, they locked out five million Australian recreational fishers from a vast area of Commonwealth waters without proper consultation.

These new plans give greater recognition to the rights of Australians to throw a fishing line off the side of their boat. It gives recreational fishers access to 97 per cent of Commonwealth waters within 100 kilometres of the coast and 80 per cent of the marine park network overall up from 64 per cent under Labor. This represents an additional 400,000 square kilometres accessible for recreational fishing compared to the 2012 plans.

Carefully managed recreational fishing which provides access to reefs in the Coral Sea, like Vema, Marion and Kenn, is not mutually exclusive from ecologically sustainable outcomes and biodiversity conservation.

When it comes to commercial fishing, we also recognise the significant role this billion dollar industry plays. Again compared to Labor, 17 per cent more of the total area of marine parks will now be open to commercial fishing. While Labor is already running a scare campaign around supertrawlers it is worth noting that it was on Labor’s watch that the supertrawler came to Australia and that it took a Coalition Government to ban it.

Under our management plans, opportunities to fish in the water column have expanded, so too have the protections for the sea floor. An additional 200,000 square kilometres of sea floor habitat, nearly the size of Victoria, will now be highly protected preventing damaging trawling and other like activities.

The Coalition is also reducing the overall area that is open to mining. This includes a complete exclusion from mining for the Coral Sea and waters close to Kangaroo Island which would’ve been open to resource development under Labor’s 2012 plans.

The Coalition’s management plans will also better showcase our country’s ecotourism potential for snorkelling, diving and nature watching. Well-known sites near Coringa-Herald in the Coral Sea are protected, along with Osprey Reef which for the first time will be managed as a green no-take zone.

If the Coalition’s marine park management plans are disallowed in the Senate as Labor is threatening to do, the status quo will continue which means an absence of management plans and protections.

The finalisation of the marine management plans is the culmination of a long process which has sought to balance at times competing interests.

The result is a fairer and more effective system that will deliver stronger environmental and economic outcomes for all Australians.

 

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