Analysis shows minimal benefit in cutting marine sanctuaries

A research report released by The Australia Institute has found that the Coalition Government's plan to reduce Australia's marine protected areas by 40 million hectares will have minimal socio-economic benefit for the fishing industry, and in some instances could have a negative impact.

The report found that the Government's draft plans and other documents “provide no economic context around any impacts of marine protection, or the proposals to wind it back. No attempt is made to put the impacts of the various proposals in their national, state or local economic contexts.”

On July 20, 2017, the Federal Government released plans to reduce protection of Australia’s marine environment.

The plans would remove 53% of sanctuaries for marine life in the Coral Sea; 57% of sanctuaries off the northern coast of Australia; 49% of sanctuary protection off the north west coast of Western Australia, and; 40% of sanctuaries in the south west region, stretching from Perth around to Kangaroo Island.

38 of the country’s 44 marine parks could be opened to fishing practices that the government’s own assessments found were incompatible with conservation, such as trawling, gillnetting and longlining.

Co-author of the report and Research Director at The Australia Institute, Rod Campbell, said the loss of protected areas would not deliver significant economic returns.

“The 2012 plans would reduce value of fish caught by $5.1 million per year. That’s just 1.5% of the $338 million annual catch in Commonwealth waters. Impacts on state waters are all under 1% of the catch value.

“Importantly, that’s the reduction in the value of the fish, not the profit of the fishing companies, which would be smaller still once costs are accounted for.

“It’s a very small impact on the value of fishing, itself an industry that is a very small part of the economy in any part of Australia. In NSW, Queensland and Victoria wild-catch fishing production is less than one tenth of one percent of GSP. The highest is Tasmania with 0.73%, but Tasmania is largely unaffected by these changes.

The report, Something fishy: new research on minimal economic gain from large cutback in marine protection, is available here.

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