In November 2012, Australia declared the world’s largest network of marine parks including the ‘jewel in the crown’ – the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea Marine Park is almost 1 million square kilometers with half of it fully protected as a sanctuary for marine life.
The government process to establish the national network of marine parks has crossed political divides and received bi-partisan support. It was initiated by John Howard’s Coalition Government in 1998, and finally delivered by Julia Gillard’s Labor Government in 2012.
Yet, in December 2013, the new Tony Abbott Coalition Government took the extraordinary step of suspending all new federal marine parks and erasing the plans to manage them leaving all of our sanctuaries at risk. Tony Abbott has ordered a ‘review’, saying that not enough science research or consultation has taken place.
But this makes no sense. The ‘review’ could likely be an expensive and unnecessary waste of time and money – there’s already been the most exhaustive science review ever conducted in Australia and hundreds of community and stakeholder consultation workshops.
The campaign for a large, no-take marine sanctuary in the Coral Sea captured the imagination of the world. During the public consultation period, 750,000 people sent submissions that said yes to a national network of marine parks, and the overwhelming majority supported the creation of a highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea.
A number of fishing lobby groups have over the years expressed opposition to the marine parks and disseminated misleading and inaccurate information about them.
Below are 16 facts that debunk 7 myths about the Coral Sea marine park
Myth 1: The Coral Sea Marine Park is are not based on science
Fact 1.1: The Commonwealth Government has documented the significant natural and physical values of the East Marine Region, including the Coral Sea, in its East Marine Bioregional Plan – Bioregional Profile. A report entitled Australia’s Coral Sea: A Biophysical Profile was released in August 2011 (Ceccarelli, 2011). This was the first Coral Sea specific report to be published which synthesizes the best available scientific information on the region.
Fact 1.2: During a public consultation process in November 2011, a group of more than 300 scientists from around Australia and 21 other countries signed a joint submission outlining the values of the region and the value of setting aside a large highly protected tropical pelagic ecosystem.
Myth 2: Stakeholders and the community have not been adequately consulted
Fact 2.1: This process started under the Howard Government in 1998. It has been an epic consultation process with 6 rounds of public consultation, hundreds of stakeholder meetings and more than 750,000 submissions made during the public consultation process which started in 2011 and ended in 2012.
Fact 2.2: Around 95% of the 750,000 public and stakeholder submissions to the federal government since 2011 called for greater protection of the marine environment.
Myth 3: The marine park network would have devastate the fishing industry and the Australian economy.
Fact 3.1: The impact on commercial fishing from the network was restricted to less than 1% of the annual catch. While some commercial fishers would have needed to make changes to where or how they fished or may have chosen to leave the industry, the government was providing up to $100 million in funding to help them adjust. Due to the Government current review these businesses are left with more delays and uncertainty.
The marine park network would of displaced $11.1 million worth of commercial fishing production per annum (Regulation Impact Statement, 2012, SEWPaC). This is less than 1% of the$2.2billion in total gross value produced by Australian fisheries (Fishery StatusReport,2010,ABARES).
Fact 3.2: The proposed marine reserve network was estimated to result in a short-term loss of economic activity of$23.2million–along way from the $4.3 billion claimed by the Australian Marine Alliance.
Fact 3.3: Nationally, 103 full‐time equivalent (FTE) jobs would have been lost (SEWPaC2012). The federal government pledged$100 million to assist fishing businesses affected by the marine reserves network. The proposed network covers an area that provides$2 billion a year in unaccounted ecosystem services (Preserving Our MarineWealth,2012, Centre for Policy Development).
Fact 3.4: No Queensland managed fishery will be affected by the marine park. There are two Commonwealth fisheries – The Coral Sea Fishery and part of the Eastern Tuna Fishery. Official analysis found that the Coral Sea Marine Park would restrict only $4.2M worth of commercial fishing production (mainly Eastern Tuna Fishery). It also estimated that it would lead to a short-term loss in economic activity of $7.5 million, and lead to a 17 FTE jobs being lost. The previous government committed around $100 million to help businesses from all around Australia adjust, now these businesses are left with more delays and uncertainty.
Myth 4: Australia will have to import more seafood from overseas to make up for closures in the CoralSea.
Fact 4.1: TheCoral Sea Fishery is a very low‐value fishery with 16 permits but only four active boats in recent years. Two of the permits are used to collect aquarium specimens,which are taken live for their decorative value; another permit is used to collect sea cucumber for export to Southeast Asia.
Fact 4.2: For some target species in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the tonnage allowed to be fished was very likely to remain unchanged,whilst for other species—probably albacore tuna and bigeye tuna—the total allowable catch may be reduced. Albacore tuna is a tropical species and is mainly caught in theCoral Sea. Bigeye tuna is approaching an overfished state, and some estimates indicate that it may already be overfished on the east coast ofAustralia (ABARES2012),and the total catch needs to be reduced, regardless of the status of the Coral Sea Marine Park.
Myth 5: Australia’s fisheries are underexploited.
Fact 5.1: There are no major opportunities to expand Australia’s fisheries. In 2010, 42%of Australia’s fish stocks were assessed as either overfished or unknown (ABARES 2010).Our waters are comparatively less productive (much like our land) than waters found else where in the world. This fact makes them more vulnerable to overfishing.
Myth 6: The charter fishing industry will be crippled by the Coral Sea Marine Reserve.
Fact 6.1: More than 99%of reported tag‐and‐release game fishing off the coast of Queensland occurs within the GreatBarrier Reef Marine Park, and less than 1% occurs in the Coral SeaMarineReserve.
Fact 6.2: Around 200,000 sq km of the marine reserve, including world-renowned fishing grounds for pelagic gamefish like black marlin, were set to become the exclusive site of recreational and charter fishing, in waters protected from commercial long-lining and purse seining for tuna and billfish.
Fact 6.3: The Regulation Impact Statement into the proposed marine reserve,produced by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities based onABARES modelling, found thereto be“minimal impact expected”on recreational and charter fishing.
Myth 7: The Coral Sea Marine Reserve locks out recreational fishers.
Fact 7.1: The closest to shore sanctuary (no fishing) zone in the proposed Coral Sea Marine Reserve is well beyond the continental shelf—avery long way from the Queensland coastline.The vast majority of recreational fishers in Queensland will not be affected.
Fact 7.2: The nearest sanctuary zone in the proposed Coral Sea Marine Reserve is 210 kms from Cairns, 325 kms from Townsville, 380 kms from Mackay, 505 kms from Gladstone,and 490 kms from Bundaberg.
Download: Q&A about the Coral Sea Marine Reserve (DOC)
Sources used in this document:
Completing the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network: Regulation Impact Statement 2012, SEWPaC: http://bit.ly/Nmh90m
Fishery Status Reports 2010, ABARES: http://bit.ly/PETYBc
Preserving Our Marine Wealth 2012, Centre for Policy Development: http://bit.ly/MZlEdw
 Department of Sustainability,Environment,Water,Population and Communities  Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences
Download: Information for recreational fishers about Coral Sea (PDF)
Scientific description of the Coral Sea on the e-Atlas website of the Australian Institute of Marine Science by Dr Dani Ceccarelli.
Download: Australian Government’s map of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve (PDF)
Download: Australian Government’s map of Marion Reef Marine National Park (PDF)
Australian Government’s map of recreational fishing areas.
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