Marine groups reject Libs' plan

South West marine action groups are angry at the Liberal Party’s latest fisheries policy claiming it is a threat to Australia’s marine parks.

Earlier this week Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced that if elected, his government would suspend the “flawed Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas” and re-evaluate the management of the fishing industry because key stakeholders had been left out.

This policy has angered local action groups which have petitioned for years to increased safeguards on the region’s exclusive marine life, given less than 1 per cent is presently protected.

According to Save Our Marine Life, almost 90 per cent of the South West’s species are found only in this region.

Based on a poll posted on the organisation’s website, the existing Federal Government plan is supported by 70 per cent of Australians.

Dolphin Discovery Centre marine biologist Phil Coulthard is disappointed marine parks and marine life biodiversity has been ignored.

“After all the work in marine science and consultation processes, it could be put on hold or left to do nothing,” he said.

“The Government has done everything possible to make sure all stakeholders were involved and all angles covered.

“It is a workable system for all and promotes the long-term sustainability of our oceans.”

Mr Coulthard said confusion over the plan had led people to believe their fishing rights had been restricted, but in most cases that was not the case.

“The whole point of this exercise is to protect and promote biodiversity and fish stocks in Australian waters,” he said.

“The Liberal Government put this plan in place in 1998 and committed to a national marine park program to be achieved by 2012.

“It was achieved and it’s ironic that they would go against it.

“The biggest benefit of the Commonwealth plan is that it linked all oceans around Australia as one, instead of having boundaries, so protection was nationwide.”

Save Our Marine Life marine coordinator Tim Nicol, agreed the parks were vital.

“Half a million submissions were presented to Parliament to increase protection for the marine systems,” he said.

“Parliament voted for Geographe Bay to become a marine park as of next July and we hope the approval continues,” he said.