Commercial fishers argue that Asian fisheries will suffer from Australia's new vast marine sanctuaries, which span more than 2.3 million sqkm along the South Australian, West Australian, New South Wales and Northern Territory coasts.
The area became part of the country’s marine reserves on the night of 16 November.
The National Seafood Industry Alliance combed through the federal government's regulatory impact assessment for the marine sanctuaries and determined that the process was poor. The alliance subsequently wrote to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke with its concerns but the minister has not yet responded, West Australian Fishing Industry Council Chief Executive Mark Tucek explained.
"There are serious gaps in the regulatory impact statement," Tucek said, AAP reports.
He noted that Australia buys about 75 per cent of its seafood for human consumption from Asian nations including China, Vietnam and Thailand, where marine ecosystems are struggling due to inadequate fisheries management.
"It exports an increase in our demand to those countries and puts more pressure on their environmental systems," he reasoned. "The environment doesn't stop at Australia's economic exclusion zone, so the net effect to the environment is negative."
Further, Tucek argued that many coastal communities that rely on the livelihood of commercial fishers were not taken into account in the federal government's yearly AUD 100 million (USD 103.5 million) compensation to fishers, who will no longer be able to operate in the areas being turned into sanctuaries.
Map: Commonwealth of Australia
The opposition and industry say this amount is not enough to compensate the industry and force the export of Queensland jobs, News Mail reports.
"There will be a marked shift to imported seafood - that will rape fragile reef and other marine environments overseas where there is no proper management,” warned Queensland's Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh. "This is a lose-lose for the environment and particularly for local fishing jobs."
Burke said the assistance package recognises that even though the marine reserves are estimated to only have a 1 per cent impact on Australia’s commercial fishing industry, “some fishers and fishing businesses will be affected,” International Business Times reports.
But the Conservation Council of Western Australia believes the sanctuaries will instead lead the way toward bigger scientific discoveries and advances in the field, as there was still much left to understand about Australia's oceans, where up to 80 per cent of marine life has still not been named.
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the party does not see protecting the biodiversity and protecting the fishing industry as mutually exclusive goals.
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