Fishermen downcast as marine sanctuaries prevail in SA

Fishermen downcast as marine sanctuaries prevail in SA

An 11th hour bid to curb marine sanctuaries in South Australia has failed, in a tight and controversial parliamentary vote.

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

An 11th hour bid to curb marine sanctuaries in South Australia has failed, in a tight and controversial parliamentary vote.

It means there will be wide ranging protection of the state's waters from next month - good news for sharks and other marine creatures, but said to be a blow to the fishing industry.

Karen Ashford reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

It's taken ten years of negotiation and debate to achieve a network of 84 marine parks in South Australian waters.

On October 1, some six per cent of the state's waters will become marine sanctuaries.

But despite the extended consultation there remained sticking points - in particular, concern amongst the seafood industry that fishing grounds prized for elite species like lobster and abalone would be denied to them.

The opposition responded by proposing to roll back protections in 12 mooted sanctuary zones - originally chosen for protection as vital habitats for icon species like great white sharks.

The Opposition's lead speaker on the Bill was Stephen Griffiths.

"Please, when you stand up to vote, consider the needs of all South Australians, the needs of regions, the needs where government's own research indicates that 124 full time equivalent jobs are going to be lost, $12.4 million lost from regional communities. At a time of such exceptionally high unemployment in regional communities and so many communities that are struggling for a vibrant economic future, we cannot afford to do this, cannot afford to do this."

The fate of the Bill rested with two independent MPs who have accepted ministries with the Labor government.

Martin Hamilton-Smith, a former Liberal, sided with his old party and opted for fishing now and sanctuaries later.

"Once the damage has been done to these regional communities there will be no turning back. As a government and a state there is always the option in the future of increasing the size and the scope of sanctuary zones within our marine environment."

Mr Hamilton-Smith's stand meant the house was deadlocked 20 votes all.

The deciding vote rested with a second independent, Geoff Brock, who accepted the ministry of Regional Development in a deal which returned Labor to government.

With shaking hands, he acknowledged that regional communities would be disappointed, but he was voting against the Bill, to instead back protections.

"The opposition's approach appears to be much about politics than a real regard to the complex environmental and economic issues involved. The proposals in this Bill have the potential to seriously undermine the effectiveness of the marine parks network and undo much of the good work that's been done over a decade. Mr Speaker, I therefore cannot support the Bill in this format."

The fiery debate tested the patience of speaker Michael Atkinson, who repeatedly warned MPs and even extended that warning to the public gallery.

"Before I call the next speaker I'm not having the house's deliberations interrupted or obstructed. This house should have the dignity of a court - if I hear another noise from the galleries I'll clear it."

A division was called and the votes tallied.

"(Bell ringing) There are 20 ayes and 21 noes, the bill is therefore lost (shame, shame)"

Outside parliament, fishermen hugged the visibly upset Michelle Lensink, the architect of the failed Bill.

Opposition leader Steven Marshall termed it a disgraceful result.

"The Liberal Party and the crossbenchers weren't trying to get rid of marine parks, they weren't trying to get rid of sanctuary zones - it was a small amendment to protect regional jobs. He's the Minister for regional development and he's voted against regional jobs. Give me a break."

Meanwhile, disappointed fisherman like Bart Butson fear for their future.

"I don't know - I'm too old to learn a new trade, I'm not certain, that's the worst part about it. There's no compensation, I don't think there'll be enough fishing area to make a living, so I don't know."

Others, like lobster exporter Andrew Ferguson, are hoping their businesses will survive until the next election, in the hope of a new government.

"All we can hope is that we do have a change of government in a couple years' time and we can actually get another good look at it and get things changed around - there's always that to look forward to but basically why would you want to put at risk such a fantastic fisheries regime in South Australia with great management, great export opportunities, it just doesn't make sense."

But conservationists argue the economic effects of the marine parks on the fishing industry will be tiny, with modelling showing a less than two per cent impact.

Craig Wilkins, from the Conservation Council of South Australia, says the changes would've actually been damaging for regional communities that may now be buoyed by the fresh opportunities marine parks create.

"It would've effectively gutted the heart of the marine sanctuary system in our state. These zone on question were the absolute jewels in the crown, the best of the best, and to lose those would've lost the whole point of having marine protection. These zones drive regional tourism, drive jobs in the regions, they drive returns for regional economies and they protect marine ecosystems."





Source World News Australia

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