World’s largest marine reserve meets opposition


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 27, 2011

The Australian government’s decision to establish the world’s largest marine reserve in the Coral Sea will harm both seafood businesses and consumers, according to the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA).

Following the announcement on Friday by Tony Burke, Australia’s environment minister, the QSIA said it is “bitterly disappointed” that trawl fishing would be prohibited in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which, at 989,842 square kilometers (around 380,000 square miles), is more than half the size of Queensland.

The Coral Sea is located off Australia’s northeast coast and stretches from the Great Barrier Reef to Papua New Guinea in the north and the Solomon Islands in the east. The reserve’s nearest point is more than 60 kilometers from the coast and it extends out to 1,100 kilometers from the mainland. According to Burke, only a limited amount of commercial fishing takes place in the area. 

However, the QSIA accused the Australian government of “locking away enormous potential future food resources for Australia and the world that could be harvested sustainably.”

“This includes waters currently fished sustainably by prawn trawlers from as far south as Brisbane. It will have a major impact on families in coastal communities, especially fishing crew members, process workers, retail staff and consumers,” said QSAI President Geoff Tilton. “It is ironic that sustainable trawling is an acceptable fishing method inside the GBR [Great Barrier Reef] Marine Park but appears to be demonized and excluded in the deeper water areas outside the GBR.”

Added Tilton: “This reflects the influence on the Gillard Government by foreign multi-national environmental lobbying businesses like the American-based Pew Foundation, who clearly hate commercial fishing in general and trawling in particular. These overseas organisations and their local subsidiaries like the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) clearly will take whatever action they can wherever they can to prevent commercial fishermen operating and prevent consumers enjoying fresh local seafood.”

Protect Our Coral Sea, a coalition of 13 Australian and international conservation groups, including Pew and the World Wildlife Fund, called the marine reserve is “a good start” but said it “falls short of fully protecting the area’s fragile coral reefs and marine life.”

The Australian government is accepting public comment on the proposed marine reserve over the next 90 days.

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