Prominent Abrolhos Island fisherman Terry Mouchemore said yesterday the South West Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network proposal could signal an end to Island fishing.
The plan, released yesterday, has been hailed by the Environment Minister Tony Burke as the world’s largest network of marine reserves.
The minister said the plan follows four months of consultation and is final.
He said it is no longer a question of the location of the marine reserves, just whether or not the plan will be implemented.
If it goes ahead, it will be the largest addition to the conservation estate in Australia’s history.
The marine reserves extend from the eastern end of Kangaroo Island in South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia.
A marine reserve, or no-take zone, has been established in the waters directly surrounding North Island at the Abrolhos Islands and at the Houtman Canyon that lies to the west of the Islands.
Mr Mouchemore said it had a potentially devastating impact on the fishermen at North Island.
He said for some, it could signal the end of their operations.
Some 14 commercial boats operated from North Island during this year’s A-zone season.
He said the no-take zone was well within the operating range of the commercial fishing vessels based at the Island and operators would be forced to travel long distances to obtain their catch.
“It will mean more expensive and less effective operations because I will have to travel further and I will be in areas competing with other fishermen,” he said.
He said if some of the larger boats relocated elsewhere it would make the Carrier Boat, which transports the rock lobsters back to the mainland for processing, unviable and in turn make fishing operations at North Island impossible.
The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council has condemned the plan, labelling it “beyond belief”.
WAFIC principal executive officer Guy Leyland said it was clear the Gillard Government were playing to the Greens and the electorates of the inner city at the expense of the regional areas.
He said it was “over the top” and “bizarre to say the least” that the Government would overhaul a sustainable fishery.
The Western Rock Lobster fishery recently had its certification as a sustainable fishery from the Marine Stewardship Council extended for the next five years.
It was the first fishery in the world to gain the accreditation from the MSC 12 years ago.
“It is nothing to do with sustainability.
We’re up there in the world in terms of our fisheries management.
“Why would you want to cauterize 50 per cent of Australia’s waters from productive fishing?” he said.
He said the plan would effectively see the fishing industry being wound down and future growth constrained.
He said Minister Burke was just trying to make his mark in Australian history and his overriding objective was to lead the world in terms of marine conservation.
State Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said the Gillard Government’s proposal was a “dog’s breakfast” that would hurt the WA economy.
He said it had failed to achieve a balance between conservation and the WA community’s access to the marine environment for fresh fish and recreation.