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Draft Federal Marine park management plan not just about conservation

Draft Federal Marine park management plan not just about conservation
July 30, 2017

A newly released draft plan "to establish a world-class management program for Australia’s marine parks in Commonwealth waters" has been released by the Federal Government's Director of National Parks.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has described the independent consultation as being "part of the Coalition Government’s commitment to delivering a well-managed marine park estate which balances various needs and uses such as fishing, tourism, conservation and Indigenous use."

Australian Marine Parks are in waters that start at the outer edge of state and territory waters, generally no less than three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) from the shore extending 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometre) from the shore to the outer boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The draft plans cover Commonwealth waters off the coast of NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Minister Frydenberg states "with 36% of waters around Australia covered by marine parks, we have surpassed the United Nations target of 10%.

"Our level is more than many other countries with significant marine jurisdictions such as the France, Canada, Mexico and Chile.

The proposed plan includes no changes to the boundaries of Australian Marine Parks, instead it proposes, according to Minister Frydenberg “a targeted zoning approach to allow sustainable activities like commercial fishing while protecting key conservation features.”

The targeted zones include:

Green: ‘National Park Zones’ with full conservation protection

Yellow: ‘Habitat Protection Zones’ where fishing is allowed as long as the seafloor is not harmed

Blue: ‘Special Purpose Zones’ that allow for specific commercial activities.

Minister Frydenberg added “this is a much more balanced, scientific approach than those previously undertaken for marine parks. These plans protect what needs to be protected, without negatively impacting communities and our country’s economy.”

However, writing in The Conversation, marine scientists Professor Jessica Meeuwig and Professor David Booth are critical of the targeted zoning proposals, writing that it is “based on an unsubstantiated premise: that protection of Australia’s ocean wildlife is consistent with activities such as fishing and oil and gas exploration.”

The pair highlight that the plans ignore recommendations made in a 2012 review of Australia’s network of marine reserves expressing concerns over the extent of the ‘green zones’.

They explain “the extent of green zones is crucial, because the science says they are the engine room of conservation.

“Fully protected marine national parks – with no fishing, no mining, and no oil and gas drilling – deliver far more benefits to biodiversity than other zone types.

“The best estimates suggest that 30-40% of the seascape should ideally be fully protected, rather than the 20% proposed under the new plans.

“Partially protected areas, such as the ‘yellow zones’ that allow fishing while protecting the seabed, do not generate conservation benefits equivalent to those of full protection.”

Explaining how full protection creates resilience by supporting intact ecosystems, Professors Meeuwig and Booth add “fully protected green zones recover faster from flooding and coral bleaching, have reduced rates of disease, and fend off climate invaders more effectively than areas that are open to fishing.”

Jessica Meeuwig is Professor and Director, Marine Futures Lab at the University of Western Australia. David Booth is Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Technology Sydney.

The draft plans can be accessed at www.parksaustralia.gov.au/marine 

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