Queensland Seafood Industry Association has accused the federal government of pandering to 'green ideology' by proposing a marine park in the Coral Sea larger than NSW, potentially impacting the livelihoods of 40 trawler operators.
Consultation for a proposed 989,842sq km marine reserve in the Coral Sea closes on February 24, with the industry claiming the proposed reserve is a sellout to the lobbying efforts of US-based global environment group the PEW foundation. The plan would close 51 per cent of the reserve to all fishing and prohibit trawling.
PEW, in partnership with 12 other environmental non-government organisations, is pushing for the entire area to be classified a no-take zone. It developed its own plan for the region in 2008.
The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has expressed it will submit its own response to the reserve, and will be calling for a 3000sq km zone inside the marine park where trawlers would be able to operate.
QSIA chief executive Winston Harris said the government should accept the compromise, as trawler operators were able to fish in 10 per cent of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
QSIA president Geoff Tilton said stakeholders met Environment Department officials last week in Brisbane, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences was conducting an industry survey to estimate a likely compensation package for trawler operators.
'I’d rather they (the government) listen to the fishing industry who currently operates in this area than listening to overseas conservation groups who have the potential and the money to lobby hard and possibly remove a good food resource from the Australian public, purely on green ideology,' Tilton said.
Of about 340 trawler operators in Queensland, about 40 would be directly affected by the reserve proposal.
Mr Tilton backed statements from Queensland Nationals senator Ron Boswell that the proposed reserve would force trawlers to overfish remaining areas of the Queensland coast.
Senator Boswell said the government would be forced to buy up licences, boats and fish processors to reduce fishing.
'The government has completely underestimated the financial chaos it will cause to the industry and the economies of small coastal towns,' Senator Boswell said.
Environment Minister Tony Burke describes the Coral Sea as 'a near-pristine area with abundant marine life' and thus, deserving of protection, adding that the government’s framework aimed to minimise the impact of the park on industry and communities.