Fishers’ fury over marine parks plan

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke … announced he would set up the world’s largest network of marine reserves, angering the fishing industry.THE federal government faces a fight with the fishing industry over planned marine reserves.

Fishermen scorned the government’s talk of a $100 million compensation package yesterday.

Just after the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, announced he would set up the world’s largest network of marine reserves yesterday, fishermen condemned the idea, saying it would push up the price of seafood, damage coastal communities and imperil Australia’s food security.

Conservationists broadly welcomed it. The area will cover more than 3 million square kilometres of ocean, and limit fishing and mining to varying degrees, though some were concerned the network did not go far enough.

Mr Burke and the Fisheries Minister, Joe Ludwig, announced they would set up an assistance package ”in the vicinity” of $100 million.

”Those impacted who want to change where they fish, how they fish, and what they fish, will be helped to do so,” Mr Ludwig said. ”Those who can change their business model, or who opt to leave the industry, will get the assistance they require.”

But the industry poured scorn on the figure. Brian Jeffriess, of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, said the ministers ”were kidding themselves” if they thought that was enough.

Mr Jeffriess said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park alone had cost $250 million and rising in assistance.

While praising Mr Burke’s consultation with the industry, he criticised the the government for announcing the plan without announcing compensation at the same time.

”If you’re sitting there as a small business in a regional area dependent on the fishing industry, what are you supposed to do?” he said. ”For those who don’t know whether they can stay in business at all, their staff will desert in droves. We’re bitterly disappointed.”

A spokesman for the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council, Guy Leyland, said: ”The big winners out of this will be the importers. The Australian consumer who wants to eat domestic fish will be faced with higher prices.”

Imogen Zethoven, a Coral Sea campaigner from the Pew Environment Group, said the announcement was a ”historic moment” in protecting the unique tropic waters beyond the Great Barrier Reef, which are home to sharks, tuna, and marlin.

The Wilderness Society’s marine campaign manager, Felicity Wishart, said the announcement was a ”welcome first step” but there were some major omissions.

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