A COALITION plan to halt the expansion of Australia's marine park network has drawn criticism from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last week outlined plans to stop the clock on the Federal Government's plan to establish the world's biggest marine park network, citing a lack of consultation and scientific scrutiny.
In outlining the plan he was joined by outspoken Central Queensland MP George Christensen, who plans to introduce a private member's bill aimed at, among other things, giving stakeholders a greater say in future marine park proposals.
But AMCS Coral Sea campaigner Fiona Maxwell scoffed at the suggestion the science and consultation underpinning the marine park proposal were inadequate.
Ms Maxwell echoed the sentiments of Environment Minister Tony Burke, who in responding to the Coalition's announcement last week, highlighted the extensive scientific work undertaken before the proposal was unveiled in June.
She said in opposing the government's proposal the Coalition was abandoning its "strong" legacy on marine reserves.
"George Christensen is attempting to stall progress on what many see as a significant leap forward in our history to protect precious seas," Ms Maxwell said.
"The Howard government began the process of establishing the national network of marine reserves and the Gillard government is now attempting to complete that process."
She said the Coral Sea, about half of which would be locked up under the plan, was at a crossroads.
"We need to ask ourselves what future we want for it," she said.
"Should we place half the Coral Sea in the bank for the future and use the other half for recreational fishing and commercial fishing, as proposed, or should we exploit it by ramping up the commercial fishing pressure in the Coral Sea, which a number of those who are opposed to the proposal ... appear to be advocating."
Ms Maxwell described as a "myth" the claim recreational anglers would be locked out of the Coral Sea.
She said the "vast majority of recreational fishers in Queensland" would not be affected.
Similarly, she said assertions the marine park proposal would decimate the commercial fishing industry were off the mark.
The Federal Government predicts compensation totalling $100 million will need to be paid to commercial fishing ventures affected by the marine park plan.
Mr Christensen was in the north of the electorate yesterday and unavailable for comment.
GOING THE DISTANCE
The distance from Queensland coastal centres to the proposed Coral Sea Marine Reserve:
- Mackay - 380km
- Gladstone - 500km
- Bundaberg - 490km
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