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The Politics of Australia’s Marine Park Expansion Plan

June 19, 2012

“What we’re talking about here is Australia setting aside up to 50 per cent of the total economic zone close to significant areas of fishing,” said Jeffriess. “Now that would mean that Australia would have over 50 per cent of the world’s closed areas. That’s Australia getting along way ahead of the world with no good reason.”

That’s an interesting statment from Brian Jeffries of Australia’s Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA).  You could alternatively say that Australia has a great reason: most of the ocean is in dire need of such protection.  Australia would just be living up to its responsibility as the holder of this public trust.

Of course, the other comments from the CFA seem much more sensible.

“The CFA calls for the marine reserve network declarations to be put on hold until all the impacts to the fishing industry, regional communities and Australia’s future seafood supply can be accounted for,” said Trixi Madon, CFA CEO. “The community must have the opportunity to properly assess the benefits of our fisheries, which are managed for sustainability, and other biodiversity conservation objectives.”

That’s fair…but this came on June 12 when all they had gotten ahold of was a leaked proposal.

Nicely, the Australian government followed up two days later with an official announcement and a compensation plan of AUD 100 million for affected fishermen.  Protected areas will now comprise one-third of Australia’s waters.  It’s worth watching the whole video.  This is a big annoucement.

This article here provides the negative response of industry:

Dean Logan from the Australian Marine Alliance thinks the plan is bad news for commercial fishers. “It’s basically saying to Australians you cannot be trusted to be good custodians of the environment,” he said.

Professional prawn fishing groups contend that the marine park reserves will severely harm the prawn industry in northern Australia.

Austral Fisheries general manager Andy Prendergast noted that the marine reserves, particularly in the Gulf of Carpentaria, will lock fishers out of their main fishing grounds for Tiger and Banana prawn. The government’s move could thus eradicate Australia’s free-range prawn fishing industry.

“There is a tipping point,” Logan added. “If we can’t get access to these areas, that could effectively put us out of business in time.”

So why did this win out?  If we toy with the determinants of state behviour I wrote on yesterday, then we might say that Australia has a large and active environmental community, an economically unimportant domestic fisheries industry (relatively speaking), high economic development, strong scientific instutions and a culture that values science, a transparent and simple state structure allowing environmental groups access to the government, a close proximity to New Zealand (another leader in marine management), and a national identity as a country that protects its vast natural resources.

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