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Australian Government Set to Relax Commercial and Recreational Fishing Rules in Marine Reserves

In a controversial move by the Government, Australia is planning on allowing commercial fishing to take place across 80 percent of protect marine sanctuaries – extending its commercial activities so that it becomes one of the world’s largest marine-reserves network.

Under this new proposal, the boundaries of Australian Marine Parks will not change, but rather, the total area of the reserves open to fishing in Australia will be rezoned to allow an increase in recreational and commercial activities.

In revised plans released by the Director of National Parks, it is proposed that large parts of Queensland’s Coral Sea, as well as areas situated off the coast of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales, will either lose or have their conservation protection status downgraded, to allow for expanded long-line fishing and seafloor trawling. A majority of the expanded fishing area will be located in the Coral Sea Reserve, an area which up until now has been fiercely protected.

The proposed rezoning is also likely to cause a stir in the Ningaloo Reef  (an area protected under Western Australian state law), with locals concerned that increased commercial fishing activities will impact on the long term health of marine life.

With the new changes implemented, 97 per cent of Australian waters, occurring within 100km of the coastline would be open to recreational fishing.

While the plan has yet to be approved by Parliament, it is supported by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and could prove to set a precedent for commercial fishing activities in protected maritime areas, setting a new standard for other countries which are considering the same.

The change has been met with enthusiasm by the seafood industry, with the new plans proposed to create more jobs, boost regional economic stability and increase the availability of popular seafood, including tuna which is a very lucrative business for many locals.

Those opposed to these new rules, say that the changes to commercial fishing regulations will threaten a number of important species, such as sharks, turtles and whales, while potentially ruining Australia’s reputation as a leader of global conservation. Seafood trawling is well known for its impacts on the environment, including destroying the natural seafloor habitat, removal of non-target species, and altering the entire chemistry and nutrient levels of the water.

These new rules will still take into account key conservation features in the area, while allowing for an increase in sustainable commercial fishing activities. While commercial fishing is an important commodity, supporting the economic livelihood of thousands of Australians – certain restrictions on commercial fishing are necessary in order to ensure the sustainability and longevity of our marine protected areas.

Find out more about how Ocean Time Marine are committed to finding a balance between commercial and recreational fishing activities and preserving the natural values of its oceans.

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