Something fishy: research shows minimal economic gain from large cutback in marine protection

The Australia Institute research shows Government proposals to reduce marine protection in Australia and the socio economic impacts of these changes.

The Federal Government is currently displaying draft management plans for marine protected areas that wind back 2012 plans to protect large areas of the Coral Sea, waters to the north and west of Australia, and various sanctuaries stretching from Perth around to Kangaroo Island.

[Full report see PDF below]

“The government is proposing to remove 40 million hectares from Commonwealth marine parks, an area twice the size of Victoria,” said Rod Campbell, report co-author and Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“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 because they not only catch fish, but catch dolphins, sea birds and other sea life.

“Given this huge reduction in protection for areas like the Coral Sea, you’d expect that this policy deliver a major boost to the economy, but it doesn’t.

“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.

“It’s clear that there is minimal socio-economic benefit to be gained from this enormous reduction in marine protection.

“As we’re seeing with energy and forestry, policy is not being driven by economics and certainly not by science, but by ideology.”

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