Almost 40 scientists including senior academics have called on fishing to remain banned in existing marine park sanctuary zones ahead of a controversial vote in State Parliament that is likely to be decided by the two independent ministers in the Labor Cabinet.
The coalition of conservationists and researchers will release a statement signed by 38 scientists that warns Liberal moves to open up fishing in the zones would “fundamentally damage” marine park integrity and have “major negative biodiversity conservation outcomes”.
The legislation passed the Upper House in July and is set to be voted on by the Lower House on September 18, in State Parliament’s first week back after the current winter break.
Opposition environment spokeswoman Michelle Lensink is seeking to allow fishing in 12 of the 80 zones. They include around Kangaroo Island, Eyre Peninsula and Gulf St Vincent.
“The main problem with the way the marine parks were designed was that there was never a proper threat assessment done in the first place,” she said.
“There is going to be a lot of economic loss for the regions that are most impacted.”
Signatories to the protest statement include University of Adelaide ecological modelling director Corey Bradshaw, Flinders University marine biology associate professor Sabine Dittmann and University of SA ecosystem health adjunct professor Philip Weinstein.
“We understand that the science underpinning the sanctuary zones makes it clear that these reductions as described in the bill would fundamentally damage the integrity of the South Australian marine parks network,” they warn. “If these comparatively large zones are no longer sanctuaries then there would be major negative biodiversity conservation outcomes.
“It appears that the proposed amendments have not undergone any community or scientific consultation, and they are not supported by any scientific rationale or justification.
“We as a group of concerned scientists have not been approached to comment on effect of the proposed changes, and nor have we been presented with the science behind the decisions.”
Independent ministers Geoff Brock and Martin Hamilton-Smith have signed agreements with Premier Jay Weatherill that guarantee him support on matters of confidence and supply.
However, they can vote independently on other issues after consulting Mr Weatherill and the Liberals would need the support of both for the changes to become law.
Mr Hamilton-Smith is believed to be undecided and consulting widely on the issue.
In a statement to The Advertiser, Mr Brock said he was keeping an open mind.
“I am still considering the issues that have been put to me by various individuals and organisations and my position will be made clear in parliament,” he said.
Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said the petition was a “huge embarrassment” for the Liberals, whose plans lacked any scientific basis.
“Our marine parks network will protect the state’s abundant marine biodiversity, adding to our image as an exporter of premium food from a clean, green environment,” he said.
“Importantly, the network will provide significant opportunities to the state’s regional areas through expansion of our eco-tourism and research sectors.”
Source: The Australian