Australia to open more marine parks to commercial fishing

SYDNEY: Australia recommended opening more of its marine parks, including near the Great Barrier Reef, to commercial fishing yesterday in a decision slammed as the worst downgrading of a protected area in the world.

The government said the move, affecting 44 parks, was made after an independent scientific review and allowed a more balanced approach to ocean protection, maintaining sustainable fishing while promoting ecotourism.

Australia is home to the second largest area (3.3 million sq km) of marine parks in the world, with 36 per cent of its waters protected.

Under the proposals, which must go to parliament, 17 per cent more of the total area would be open to commercial fishing, while zones where recreational fishing is permitted will also increase.

But the area where miners can operate will shrink by four per cent with protected seafloor boosted by 200,000 sq km.


WWF-Australia called it "the largest protected area downgrading in the world", saying more than 35 million ha will be removed from Australia's marine sanctuary network.

The Labor opposition also slammed the move, with shadow environment spokesman Tony Burke telling broadcaster ABC it was a significant step backwards.

"They say they've got a good conservation outcome - that's true if you're not a fish," he said. - AFP