High court challenge: AMA declares 'gaol before marine zones'

Marine Park Zones
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The Australian Marine Alliance (AMA) Chief Executive Dean Logan today indicated that there were alarming developments in the Australian fishing industry with fishermen now saying very clearly that they will not adhere to, or respect, the Tony Burke led boundaries established to create the largest marine reserve network in the world.

These concerns come about as the Federal Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig comes under increasing pressure at Senate Estimates over his handling of fisheries management in Australia which many now believe is not dissimilar to the live meat export debacle.

Mr Logan argued, 'This is a very serious state of affairs that unravels almost 20 years of positive work to implement measures by both the recreational and professional fishing sectors to protect our marine environment.'

The AMA has spoken to dozens of fishermen and allied businesses across the country over the past week who argue they will not respect the final decision and associated marine reserve network, arguing that they would prefer to be prosecuted and thrown in jail than watch their family businesses go under. They have also placed increased support behind a High Court challenge which is likely to be brought within months.

Mr Logan continued, 'The inability of Federal Labor to negotiate a sensible scientific based outcome has meant that not only the environment suffers, but many fishermen and small businesses are now being placed between a rock and a hard place. To keep their businesses alive they will come out fighting even if it means prosecution and funding a High Court challenge.

The situation is dire for the following reasons:
1. Experienced skippers in Queensland are being compensated by Canberra to exit the industry and find another job.
2. The total national compensation package is $100M for an area 10 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) and yet total compensation for the GBRMP already sits at $240M.
3. We have lost over 31 marine dealers in South East Queensland alone in two and a half years and yet nothing is being done by Canberra to compensate or help those still in business to stay open.
4. No one knows who or how the largest marine reserve network in Australian history will be implemented, let alone how 3.5M sq/kms of closed ocean will be monitored for illegal fishing.
5. Even though Australia imports in-excess of 70% of its total seafood requirement the price of fresh Australian wild caught seafood is projected to almost double given Labor’s policy.
6. Fisherman are furious that at the same time the Gillard Government shut them out of productive fisheries for inner city green preferences within two weeks the Government issued hundreds of new oil and gas reserves in the same areas.

Mr Logan concluded, 'The marine environment is not threatened by fishing at all but rather land based externalities and the threat of an oil rig failing. Yet the only form of effort being banned is fishing and Minister Burke still cannot present the science underpinning 3.5M sq/kms of marine closures.

'As of yesterday a High Court challenge is closer now than it’s ever been and it will proceed. There is a better solution that delivers so much more for the environment whilst delivering certainty to industry and small communities but for some reason Federal Labor refuses to listen.'

More at www.australianmarinealliance.com.au