Updated: October 19, 2011
Vatskalis all at sea on new marine parks
The Wilderness Society Inc.
20 October 2011
Fisheries Minister Kon Vatskialis has irresponsibly preempted the Commonwealth’s marine bioregional process by his unconstructive comments yesterday, following the launch of a report by conservation groups highlighting marine icons in Australia’s north.
The Wilderness Society’s Northern Australia Campaigner Gavan McFadzean said Minister Vatskalis’ remarks jeopardise the process’ independence and misrepresent a significant report that outlines twelve marine icons in need of protection.
“The public expects a Territory Minister to make a properly informed contribution to the debate over new marine parks. The public has a right to expect the Minister to have a better grasp of his portfolio and a less partisan approach to stakeholder engagement,” said Mr McFadzean.
Minister Vatskalis labeled environment groups’ report as a ‘wish list’ without scientific basis. In fact it was a systemic analysis based on advice from Australia’s leading marine scientists and using the best known marine information available.
"The Minister needs to review the facts: the Top End has one marine park in Territory waters and none in Commonwealth waters. Less than one percent of our marine environment is protected. A sustainable marine management program requires marine parks to protect crucial breeding and feeding areas for endangered sealife as well as fish stocks from overfishing, bottom trawling and oil and gas development said Mr McFadzean."
Sites earmarked as iconic and in need of protection are located in Fog Bay, Arafura Canyons, Coburg Pinnacles, Gulf of Carpentaria, western Cape York, Limmen Bight and the Arnhem Shelf Islands.
The report Twelve Tropical Sea Treasures: Underwater icons of Northern Australia has been produced by Save Our Tropical Sealife, an alliance of local and national conservation groups.
It includes a statement by Professor Hugh Possingham that "for marine conservation efforts to be effective they must always include a network of marine sanctuaries that provides high levels of protection". Prof Possingham is one of Australia’s leading conservation biologists, the Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and Inaugural Chair of the Australian Government’s Biological Diversity Advisory Committee.
"Minister Vatskalis has shown clear disregard for his constituents through these reckless remarks. It is disappointing that an elected representative would choose to enter public discussion on the important issue of marine ecosystems in such an unhelpful and obstructive way."
Further comment contact:
Gavan McFadzean mobile: 0414 754 023
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The Wilderness Society Inc