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Government winds back marine protections

“the largest removal of areas from conservation in history”

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 21 Mar 2018

The Turnbull government will strip back highest-level protections in a host of sensitive marine areas, including critical waters near the Great Barrier Reef, saying it is protecting the environment while supporting fishing and tourism.

But Labor has branded the changes “the largest removal of areas from conservation in history” and will seek to disallow the proposed regulation in Parliament.

The government is on Wednesday expected to table the proposal, which is a culmination of a review that began in 2014 under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott suspended the unfinished marine protection process instigated by the former Labor government, which would have created 40 additional reserves along the Australian coast.

The Coalition changes, which would be in place for a decade, retain 3.3 million square kilometres of Australia's protected offshore regions but allow commercial fishing and other activities in a range of new areas.

The government would reduce to 24 per cent the area of the Coral Sea, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, afforded the highest level of “green zone” protection – down from 50 per cent under Labor’s plan. Mining and fishing is banned in green zones.

Almost 70 per cent of the Coral Sea would be given “yellow zone” protection, which protects the sea floor but allows for some mining, and fishing in the water above the seabed. Conservationists say such protection does not adequately protect biodiversity.

Overall, 80 per cent of Australia’s marine park waters would be opened to commercial fishing, up from 63 percent.

The government believes the regulation protects important marine habitat, maintains sustainable fishing and promotes ecotourism. It argues the changes are needed to reduce the financial effects on commercial fishers of Labor’s plan, and simplify zoning and boundaries to enable better compliance.