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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

19 September 2004

Coalition boosts future of sustainable fisheries

Australian consumers have the power to drive sustainable fisheries, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said today.

"Enjoying seafood is a great Australian pastime, but people want to be reassured that it is caught in an environmentally sound and sustainable way.

"Eco-labeling of sustainable fish products enables consumers to use their purchasing power to encourage sustainable management practices by the fishing industry," Senator Campbell said.

"I am pleased to further promote the eco-labeling initiative by advising that the Coalition Government has granted charity status to the Asia Pacific regional office of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that will enable it to raise funds in Australia and promote improved fisheries management via certification and labeling."

The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organisation set up in 1997 by a partnership between the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Unilever. It has created an international standard for sustainable fisheries and accredits third party certifiers to assess fisheries against this standard. Successful fisheries can then place a label on their product to communicate their sustainable status to interested consumers.

According to the MSC, nowhere is there more desire to see the goals of the Council succeed than in Australia, whose own statutory environmental assessments are in part modeled on MSC standards.

"The World's first certified fishery was the Western Australian Rock Lobster Fishery and Australia has the third highest number of products bearing the MSC label of any country in the world," Senator Campbell said.

"Working towards the achievement of sustainable fisheries has been a feature of the Coalition Government through significant policy and legislative changes in recent years.

"This applies in both taxation and environmental initiatives such as the Government's National Oceans Policy - a world first - and the development of Regional Marine Plans based on large marine ecosystems, that will integrate commercial interests and conservation requirements. This process ensures that the needs of our marine environment are comprehensively addressed while providing additional certainty and opportunities for all ocean industries and users.

"The granting of charitable status to the MSC is another example of the tax incentives the Coalition Government has provided to promote environmental initiatives, such as tax deductibility for gifts of property held by the donor for more than 12 months and valued by the Taxation Commissioner in excess of $5,000, including environmental and heritage property donated to approved environmental organisations.

"Latest figures show donations to approved environmental organisations almost doubled after the introduction of tax incentives in 1999, from $27 million in 1999-2000 to $50 million in 2001-2002.

MSC Asia Pacific Regional Director, Duncan Leadbitter said the MSC relied heavily on donations and grants from supportive parties and the achievement of charity status meant that donors could be confident that all their funds were being used for fish conservation.

"The MSC's role is to recognise, via a certification programme, well-managed fisheries and to harness consumer preference for products bearing the MSC label of approval.

"This is a vital step forward for us as it enables us to tap into the support we have built here in Australia," Mr Leadbitter said.

Senator Campbell said: "We support market-based conservation incentives which assist the community to contribute to sustaining our natural resources.

"I commend the WA Rock Lobster industry on its initiative. This is a tangible way the industry can be rewarded for its efforts and demonstrate its good food management practices."

In the words of renowned Australian chef Neil Perry: "Well-managed and sustainable fishery practices protect fish and the environment in which they live, allowing responsible use of the species that come from it. We should encourage more Australian Fisheries to develop these practices by buying seafood that carries the blue Marine Stewardship Council label."

Tax-deductible donations to the Asia Pacific regional office of the Marine Stewardship Council may be made by contacting Duncan Leadbitter on 02 9524 8400.

Commonwealth of Australia