The Australian peak boating body, the Boating Industries Alliance Australia is calling on the Government to take positive action to ensure Australia’s five million boaters and fishers are not ‘locked out’ of any proposed Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.
Foreign multinational environmental groups have waded into Australia’s Marine Park planning process demanding the Government zone thousands of kilometres of Australia’s oceans to ‘Green’, effectively locking Australia’s boaters and fishers out of these areas forever. There is no science to support these views and no evidence that the proposed zones will in any way be beneficial to the environment or bio-diversity.
The Government has no management plan or infrastructure to police the proposed zones, making the objectives of the marine reserve network completely unenforceable. By denying boaters and fishers access to vast swathes of the oceans, the Government is increasing the risk of foreign fishing fleets plundering Australian waters without scrutiny. Boaters and fishers are typically the only eyes on the water in these areas and with the planned ‘lock outs’, the Government risks losing one of the most significant resources it has available to ensure the sustainable conservation of the marine environment.
The latest plans, revealed in a series of invitation-only presentations around the country, are dramatically different from those that went on public exhibition and if gazetted would result in devastating job losses and business collapses right around the nation in the hundreds of Australia’s coastal communities that rely on boating and fishing activities.
The BIAA fully supports the principles of marine reserves, however, has maintained a consistent position that the zoning must be science and evidence based. “We remain very concerned that the current proposals have no basis in science or fact”, said Nik Parker, General Manager of the BIAA. “The finalisation of the plans should only occur once the science that justifies them has been made public and draft management plans have been offered for public consideration”, he said, adding “this also cannot be considered in isolation of the social and economic impacts”
The Government has a chance to provide a superior environmental, economic and social legacy for all Australians through the Marine Park planning process. This can only be achieved by developing a network of reserves which are clearly and unequivocally based on documented and credible scientific evidence. Pandering to the unjustified advocacy from foreign multinational environment lobby groups has the potential to do irreparable harm to coastal communities around Australia with no demonstrable or sustainable conservation benefit.
Given the substantial changes to the proposed plans, the Government must embark on another round of full public consultation to ensure the views of all groups can be considered in these important decisions. Parker said “the BIAA believes that any plan for the Minister to be making a declaration on the Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network and specific marine parks and zoning within the next few months, based on a final ‘yes’ or ‘no’ consultation, is flawed and invalid”, concluding “all stakeholders need to be fully appraised of any new proposals and be given a realistic opportunity to examine plans and review the science that underpins the proposals”.
The Boating Industries Alliance Australia is the national peak body for the boating industry in Australia and represents all the state Boating Industry Associations on national issues.