FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has dismissed "lockout" concerns of anglers around Australia and formally proclaimed 44 marine reserves in a network that covers a third of the country's ocean territory.
"Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has caved into pressure from environmental lobbyists to create a flawed and uninspiring marine parks plan," a spokesman for Keep Australia Fishing, the peak advocacy group for rec anglers, said today.
"He had the chance to create marine protected areas that achieved key conservation goals yet recognised the unique socio-economic benefits of a sustainable recreational fishing sector.
"However, it is clear with the announcement today that Minister Burke has simply toed the line given to him by the environmental lobby.
"Minister Burke had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an inspiring and visionary marine parks network. But he's followed the same old line of locking it all up and throwing away the key.
"This lock-up agenda is exactly what green and anti-fishing groups have demanded for the past several years. Today Minister Burke has delivered exactly what these groups have required from him. It is now crystal clear that the Minister and his Government have been hogtied on the marine parks issue by the Greens and other anti-fishing groups.
"There was no scientific rationale behind the Government's moves to lock anglers out of 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean. We've been asking for years why we need to be locked out. However, Minister Burke has never yet answered our questions. All we can do is keep asking, 'why are you doing this to us?'
KAF questioned the Minister's decision to reward the commercial fishing sector with $100 million in compensation. "Why is the commercial fishing industry getting millions in taxpayer-funded compensation yet nothing is being provided for the rec-fishing communities?
"Minister Burke's decisions today are a slap in the face for our nation's millions of recreational anglers. We're the only user group getting locked out for no reason and with no compensation. Anglers won't forget that our Federal Government has this day treated us with contempt.
KAF and other rec-fishing organisations will now lobby hard to ensure the management plans governing the commonwealth marine parks allowed for well-managed recreational fishing activities.
"Our Environment Minister should have rejected the extremist views espoused by anti-fishing groups and instead would have worked with anglers and other reasonable environmental groups to create an efficient and effective marine parks system.
"Since the Minister has failed to do this, we'll now push hard to ensure the management plans governing these new marine parks do not exclude anglers without good reason.
"KAF and other angling organisations are committed to ensuring fishing rights for future generations of Aussie anglers," the spokesman concluded.
Keep Australia Fishing (KAF) is the peak advocacy group representing 5 million anglers.