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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
ABC World at Noon
Monday, 2 June 2003
Presenter: The Howard Government has announced a plan to protect 25% of the Great Barrier Reef from fishing and shipping. It would be a six-fold increase in environmental protection. Commercial and recreational fishing groups have expressed concern, but environmentalists say the number of so-called 'green zones' is too small to ensure biodiversity.
Joining us now to discuss the reef plan is the Federal Environment Minister David Kemp. Dr Kemp, first of all, do you support the recommendations of this Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority report?
Dr Kemp: Absolutely. I mean this is a report that I initiated when I became Minister. I think the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has done a wonderful job. It's not 25% incidentally. It's over 30%. It's 32%. And that's an increase from just under 5%, so it's an enormous, almost six-fold increase in the high protection levels on the Great Barrier Reef, and that will put it on a sustainable basis for the long-term future. We are going into a public consultation process at the moment, and it's a genuine process. We're going to be listening to people. We have listened to them already so that the plan has minimal impact on existing users, but we will be listening to what people say in the consultation. Obviously, I'd expect some adjustments around the edges. But this is a plan that is going to put the Great Barrier Reef on a very sustainable basis for our long-term future.
Presenter: Are you concerned, like some conservation groups, that places like Princess Charlotte Bay and the Hinchinbrook Channel won't get the highest level of protection?
Dr Kemp: No I'm not concerned about that at all. We've had very good, strong scientific advice from this and of course we're not fully responsible for some of those areas that you mention. We are responsible in Princess Charlotte Bay and that has got a level of protection which is equivalent to the level of protection for other important bioregions in the reef. The reef is a very complex structure. It's got 70 regions and every one of them has a minimum level of protection of 20%.
Presenter: Is there a danger with this plan though that it will concentrate more fishing on the unprotected areas of the reef?
Dr Kemp: No I don't think so because we've designed the boundaries of these new zones so that they minimally impact on existing commercial fishing and recreational fishing. It's been very interesting to see the reactions from the recreational fishers, who I think were quite concerned at the start of the process. Now I think the great majority of them realise that this is really good news for those who want to enjoy the reef, the recreational fishing, because it's going to mean an increase in the number of fish on the reef and an increase in the size of the fish. So for the foreseeable future, recreational fishers are going to have a wonderful time enjoying their sport.
Presenter: The Queensland Seafood Industry Association though is saying that this would devastate small communities. Won't it hit them economically?
Dr Kemp: No, well look the Queensland Seafood Industry Association has been involved in the consultations. They have certainly got the right to represent their constituents and they can make an initial assessment and then I hope a considered assessment of the impact of this. Our view is that there is very little impact on the areas that are in fact being used by the commercial fishers at the present time.
Presenter: So, no compensation will be offered to commercial fishermen?
Dr Kemp: Well it's quite premature to really talk about that. Because the whole plan is designed both to balance the needs of the reef against the needs of those who currently use the reef, which I think it has done very successfully, what we now need to do is to listen to what people have to say about it, to take reasonably on board any points that are made that we think should be incorporated in the plan, and then later on this year we'll be moving ahead with the final plan.