Marine Reserves, Foreign Fishing Vessels and Super Trawlers

Labor has committed to reverse the largest removal of area from conservation in history.

A process which commenced under the Abbott Government in 2013 has concluded with the Senate refusing to disallow marine park management plans put in place by Josh Frydenberg. This process has effectively cut the highly protected areas of Commonwealth Marine Parks in half.

The largest area in the world limited to recreational fishing is now being re-accessed by commercial operators, and perhaps most disturbing of all, the Government has now established a massive trawling area immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Longlining will now also be permitted north to south through the Coral Sea.

Labor’s commitment is to restore the original 2012 Marine Park Network in full. This includes an adjustment package for commercial fishers, and will still allow recreational fishing in 96 percent of Commonwealth waters within 100km of the shore.

The original plans were subject to over three years and six rounds of consultation, over 245 public and stakeholder meetings, attended by over 2000 people, enabled 210 public comment days and considered almost three-quarters of a million public submissions, all of which massively exceeded any consultation undertaken by the Government as part of the process to cut marine protection.

Labor’s commitment to return the Marine Parks will also involve retaining some very minor improvements in the zoning in the current plans. This includes small oil and gas exclusion zones off the South Australian coast and the Kimberley marine park.

The commitment to bring back the Marine Parks builds on a series of Labor policies on the ocean, including a commitment to permanently ban super trawlers - or factory freezer vessels - from Australia’s Small Pelagic Fishery.

Labor has fought for many years to ban super-trawlers, successfully halting the FV Margiris in 2012, and trying several times to strengthen the law.

Each time it has been rejected by the Liberal-National Government.

Labor doesn’t want to see localised depletion of fish stocks – where a vessel follows a school of fish and takes the lot. We don’t want to see dolphins and seals caught in huge nets and we want a healthy ocean and sustainable fisheries.

Large scale factory freezer vessels, including those under 130m, are capable of staying at sea for days or weeks at a time. When fishing in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery, super-trawlers target schools of fish over and over again, risking the localised depletion of fish stocks and sweeping up vast quantities of bait fish that would otherwise be food for species such as salmon or tuna.

Labor’s commitment will guarantee Australia’s waters are adequately protected from risks associated with the use of large-capacity factory freezer trawlers in this fishery, including the impact of localised depletion and bycatch.

Labor’s policy will also put unused fish quota in a trust for the Australian community and recreational fishers– keeping baitfish in the water to feed larger species such as tuna.

Labor recognises the importance of Australian waters to recreational fishers, the commercial fishing industry and the tourism industry.  We are committed to protecting Australian waters from the risks of overfishing and from the use of large-capacity factory freezer trawlers.