Ningaloo Reef: Federal Government draft plan would ‘slash protected areas by 40 per cent’

A marine expert claims the full protection area around Ningaloo and other marine parks would be slashed by more than 40 per cent under the Federal Government’s draft zoning, compared with a previous plan.

Professor Jessica Meeuwig, from the University of WA’s School of Biological Sciences, said the Government’s proposed rezoning would allow the continuation of mid-water trawling, long-line fishing and recreational fishing in the sensitive areas.

She said an independent review last year called for 43 per cent more of the surrounding seabed to be given the highest level of protection.

Professor Meeuwig said the Turnbull Government was seeking to hoodwink the public into thinking that “seabed habitat protection” was equivalent to full protection.

“The science is clear with multiple studies showing that partial protection is as expensive as full protection — management wise — but doesn’t generate the conservation outcomes,” she said.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg announced last week the proposed changes would increase the total area of the reserves open to fishing from 64 per cent to 80 per cent.

Professor Meeuwig said a further reduction in fish numbers would undermine the health of the entire reef and ecosystem.

“Areas where there are no fish have knock-on effects,” Professor Meeuwig said.


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