The national network of marine sanctuaries is under threat if draft plans by National Parks are adopted, according to the Save Our Marine Life alliance (SOML).
National Parks are calling for feedback on draft plans for the management of 44 Australian marine parks.
‘Australia will become the first nation to cut protections of its ocean estate if it implements plans to expose vulnerable areas of the marine environment to industrial fishing exploitation,’ the SOML group said, responding to the plans.
Environment minister Josh Frydenberg released maps detailing planned cutbacks to protection of coral reefs and key feeding and breeding areas around Australia.
SOML alliance say that Queensland’s Coral Sea and sanctuary protections off the coast from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and NSW could be scrapped to make way for an expansion of damaging long-line fishing and seafloor trawling.
‘An election promise to be science-based has been ignored,’ continued SOML.
Director of National Parks Sally Barnes said she wants to hear from everyone.
‘This is your chance to influence how we’ll manage a large area of our marine environment. We want to hear from you, all of you,’ she said.
Australian Marine Parks are located in Commonwealth waters that start at the outer edge of state and territory waters, generally no less than three nautical miles (5.5km) from the shore, and extend to the outer boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles (about 370km) from the shore.
Highlighting the risk to Australian jobs SOML said that commercial fishing has emerged as the biggest beneficiary from the Tony Abbott-initiated review.
‘The threat to jobs, local businesses and the survival of unique marine life could be avoided if the government chose to create an evidence-based balance for Australia’s oceans,’ Michelle Grady, oceans director from the Pew Charitable Trusts said.
‘The government-appointed review panel reinforced the importance of marine sanctuaries and Australia’s leading marine scientists have informed the environment minister of the threat to the productivity of our oceans if sanctuaries are removed,’ she said.
Draft plans can be found here.