Australian Fishermen Anticipate Loss of 36,000 Jobs, $4-B Income Due to New Marine Reserves

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By Vittorio Hernandez | June 15, 2012 10:51 AM EST

The trade-off for creating the world's biggest marine park reserves is the possible loss of 36,000 jobs and $4 billion in revenue for Australia's fishing industry.

The Australian Marine Alliance (AMA) released on Friday estimates on the negative impact on the fishing sector of the declaration on Thursday by Environment Minister Tony Burke of one-third of Australian waters as off-limit to fishing and some oil and gas exploration.

Mr Burke identified the 44 marine parks which cover a total of 3.1 million square kilometers. At the same time, he and Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig announced a $100 million compensation package for commercial fishing operators.

"Those impacted who want to change where they fish, how they fish, and what they fish, will be helped to do so.... Those who can change their business model, or who opt to leave the industry, will get the assistance they require," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Mr Ludwig.

However, the Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA) found the $100-million assistance package insufficient since assistance in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park cost $250 million and the amount is still going up.

"If you're sitting there as a small business in a regional area dependent on the fishing industry, what are you supposed to do?," asked Brian Jeffriess of CFA.

"For those who don't know whether they can stay in business at all, their staff will desert them in droves. We're bitterly disappointed," he added.

The AMA, which represents commercial and recreational fishers, said 70 trawlers would close their business because of the move.

Although Mr Burke said the federal government is still on a 60-day consultation process before the creation of the marine parks becomes final, the process excludes moving lines on maps where the 44 marine parks are located.

"This is devastating and those that will suffer most will be coastal communities," AMA Chief Executive Dean Logan was quoted by The Herald Sun.

"Tony Burke's just single-handedly lost the election for the Gillard government," he warned.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who apparently saw another opportunity to improve his political stock, said that while he agreed that protecting the oceans was important, he is against violation of the rights of recreational fishers and damaging the fishing and tourism industries.

Fishermen also warned that the move would boost the price of seafood, damage coastal communities and place at risk Australia's food security.

The Western Australia Fishing Industry Council said those who would benefit from the declaration of the 44 marine parks would be importers since Aussies would have to pay a higher price to eat domestic fish.

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