Australians want to eat their own local seafood.

And it’s Australia’s commercial fishers who catch local seafood for people to enjoy at home and in restaurants.

Fishers want, and need, sustainable fish stocks and protection for marine biodiversity as much as any Australian.

They are committed to science-based fisheries management regulation that has made Australia a world leader in the sustainable management of fisheries. They support appropriate marine reserves for biodiversity conservation.

The Commonwealth Government, in presenting its Marine Reserve Network has stated that fisheries management is neither a goal or principle for the reserve network. The Government has highlighted its commitment to minimise the impact on local communities and the fishing industry that are harvesting and supplying marine natural resources to the community by announcing an independent review on the Marine Reserve Network.

The challenge everyone acknowledges is getting the right balance.

While reserves can provide sites for research and monitoring of the marine environment, they can’t protect our oceans and fisheries from the major affects of pollution, introduced marine pests, illegal foreign fishing, climate change and disasters like oil spillages, none of which respect reserve “borders”.

There are already over 200 Marine Protected Areas in Australia designated by State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments, including the South-east Marine Reserve Network that was established in 2007.

Australia’s commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture industry is worth more than $2 billion annually, this figure does not include the value of other activity and employment associated with the harvesting sector eg processing, repairs and maintenance, retail and restaurant sales. A 2009 World Bank study found that 80% of the total value of wild catch seafood production is created during activities through the processing and supply chain.1

The National Seafood Industry Alliance (NSIA) invested substantial resources in responding to the previous Government’s proposals for new Marine Reserve Networks and is now participating in the review of the recently proclaimed reserves.

The proclaimed marine reserves, across all regions:

  • Will render many fishing businesses unprofitable and will immediately close some fishing businesses;
  • Fails to acknowledge the impact on Australia’s food security by reducing the supply of local seafood from sustainable fisheries;
  • Fails to appreciate the much larger cumulative impact on the Australian Fishing Industry as a whole;
  • Will benefit foreign fisheries importing fish into Australia many of which may not be subject to the same high sustainability and ecosystem protection standards that apply to Australian fisheries; and
  • Fails to detail the substantial cost to government (taxpayers) of the implementation, on-going management, monitoring, research and enforcement of the Marine Reserve Networks.

It is in every Australian’s interest to have a viable Australian commercial fishing industry to supply them a sustainable local food source now, and in the future, and:

  • Continue to provide employment in the regions;
  • Be a vital part of the economy and social fabric of many small remote coastal communities;
  • Generate export income;
  • Lower the Government’s assistance costs to the fishing industry; and
  • Allows for fisheries development into the future and flexibility in responding to climate change.


How Australia is meeting its international obligations for Marine Parks

Australia is not only meeting, but is exceeding international targets to establish a National Representative System of Marine Protected areas (NRSMPA).

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) focuses on sustainable development of natural resources, the regulation and management of risk, and the use of protected areas. The Convention introduced the phrase 'comprehensive, adequate and representative' (CAR) reserves. Australia is a member state and of key interest is the most recent Target 11 that Australia has committed to, which reads:

By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland-water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.

In 2012, Australia already had 10% of its marine areas protected.

When you add the industry refinement proposals for the Coral Sea, Temperate East, South-west, North-west and North marine reserve networks and existing marine reserves, you end up with a staggering 2,893,217 sq km of Australia’s marine environment under protection.

This is greater than the combined land area of Western Australia and Victoria.

The combined total equates to over 35% of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and would represent 59% of the coverage of current global marine protected areas. This area does not include other effective measures such as fishery closures which are a common part of fisheries resources management, and which can be considerable.

To learn more about international and national agreements and strategies from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities website click here>

World's largest MPAs - also showing the area covered by fishing industry refinements




Area Km2

 Coral Sea Marine Reserve^Australia958,023
1*Chagos Marine ReserveUK544,000
2*Phoenix Islands Protected AreaKiribati408,342
 South-west marine reserve network^Australia354,768
3Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkAustralia343,480
4Papahanauokuakea Marine National MonumentUS334,154
 Temperate East marine reserve network ^Australia242,966
 5South-East Commonwealth Marine Reserve NetworkAustralia226,458
 North-west marine reserve network ^Australia203,725
 North marine reserve network ^Australia


Sources: (2010) Global Ocean Protection: Present Status and Future Possibilities14. Chagos Conservation Trust15

* Note: 1 and 2 are sited in remote mid-Indian and mid-Pacific oceans respectively.
^ Fishing industry refined marine reserve network proposal.


Other Resources:

**New** Australian Seafood Consumers Misled by Prophets of Doom and Gloom by Dr Ray Hilborn and Dr Bob Kearney (AM) (669 k)

Government's South West Marine Region Planning

The Government North-West Marine Region Proposal

The Government North Marine Region Proposal

The Government Coral Sea Marine Region Proposal

The Government Temperate East Marine Region Proposal

The Government South-east Marine Region

Goals and Principles for the Establishment of Networks of Representative Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth Waters Click here

Marine parks no answer to threats by Professor Colin Buxton, Dr Caleb Gardner and Professor Bob Kearney

Dr Robert Kearney, Emeritus Professor of Fisheries, University of Canberra talking to Radio 6PR’s Paul Murray on the sustainability of Australian Seafood

1 World Bank Report: The Sunken Billions: Economic justification for fisheries reform (2009)