The Abbott government’s overdue review of Australian marine parks has been launched with representatives of the fishing industry dominating advisory panels.
The previous Labor government established a vast network of new marine reserves throughout five stretches of Australian ocean and set out rules for how much fishing could occur in each one, if any at all.
Heading into the last election the Coalition promised to tear up the management plans for the new parks and to carry out a review, claiming anglers had been locked out of the process.
As part of the review, which was formally launched on Thursday, an overarching expert scientific panel will be set up to take carriage of the process.
The expert panel will be chaired by Bob Beeton, an associate professor at the University of Queensland’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the former head of the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
The government has also created five advisory panels for each region of Australian ocean where the new parks were set up – the north, north-west, the east, the south-west and the Coral Sea – which are dominated by members of the commercial or recreational fishing industries.
Details of the review had initially been promised by the government by early this year.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the review would examine the management arrangements for the new marine reserves, which had been “rushed through” by the previous government.
“Unlike the previous government, we are committed to getting the management plans and the balance of zoning right, so we have asked the expert panels to consider what management arrangements will best protect our marine environment and accommodate the many activities that Australians love to enjoy in our oceans,” Mr Hunt said.
He added that the government was “determined to ensure a science-based review of Commonwealth marine reserves and zoning boundaries, while maintaining our strong commitment to the marine reserves and their estates.”
But Michelle Grady, Oceans director for Pew Australia, said the review was unnecessary, created more red tape and was a threat to Australia’s marine protection.
“Regardless of who they put on these panels, this puts Australia’s marine protection at risk and also the Liberal Party legacy of putting in place large and important marine parks,” Ms Grady said.
“It’s the Liberal Party who started this [protection] in the Fraser and Howard years.”