Speculation takes over in lead-up to marine parks decision

WITH a decision on the federal Government's national marine parks expected within weeks, speculation is running rife as to the formation of the final plan.

The ABC yesterday released details on a map showing areas to be closed to fishing.

However, sources today told Fisho the map was inaccurate and probably a smokescreen leaked by extremist anti-fishing groups.

"The map released by the ABC is not official, it doesn't come from the Environment Department and it's not accurate," a source said.

More moderate environment groups have admitted that the map featured by the ABC was "old".
"We're pretty mindful (the marine parks process) is actually still very much a work in progress," Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Chris Smyth said.

As the mainstream media focuses attention on the Government's marine parks plans, the commercial fishing industry, the sector likely to be hardest hit by the proposed marine parks, is calling for the entire process to be "deferred".

The Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA) said it does not support the proposed marine reserve networks due to significant concerns regarding the impact to the commercial fishing industry as well as many regional communities.
"The CFA calls for the marine reserve network declarations to be put on hold until all the impacts to the fishing industry, regional communities and Australia's future seafood supply can be accounted for," said CFA CEO Trixi Madon.

"The community must have the opportunity to properly assess the benefits of our fisheries, which are managed for sustainability, and other biodiversity conservation objectives. The true future costs of the government's marine reserve network proposals are unknown."

Concerns about charter fishing business have been raised by Marine Queensland (MQ), which represents the boating industry. MQ says the federal Government is yet to present any "credible science" to justify extending protection zones in the Coral Sea, which lies off the northern Queensland coast and is earmarked for significant "protection" under the proposed federal parks.

MQ spokesman Wayne Bayne says he is concerned the plan is politically motivated and will hurt the charter boat industry. "To all of a sudden have major areas like this just taken off them for no apparent reason - not only is it's unwarranted - it's unjustifiable and it's unconscionable on the part of the Government," Bayne said.
He said the proposals threaten the viability of many businesses.
"There are a lot of support industries on land that service these people .. .A lot of them were hurt when the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was done and a lot of them are just hanging on by a knife edge.

"I think that this will tip a fair few of them over."

Allan Hansard, the CEO of the Australian Recreational Fishing Federation (ARFF), said the federal Government was aware of angler concerns about the proposed marine parks.

"We've told them not to lock us out," Hansard told Fisho today. "And we've also put forward detailed plans involving changing "green" lock-out zones to 'gold' zones which deliver vital environmental outcomes while not adversely affecting rec fishing opportunities.

"We've given the Government good options to achieve what it wants to do environmentally without having to unfairly discriminate against Australia's 5 million recreational fishers.

"Hopefully the Government will consider what we have put forward when it releases its final plans in the next few weeks or months," Hansard said.

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