Environment Minister Tony Burke
Environment Minister Tony Burke Karleila Thomsen

Govt, seafood industry stoush brews

A STOUSH as significant as the fallout from the live cattle export ban could be brewing between the Federal Government and Australia's seafood industry.

For more than two years, Environment Minister Tony Burke has been consulting with environmental and seafood interests about a plan to create the world's biggest marine park.

The Coral Sea Marine Park was the biggest of several proposed parks to expand the marine areas set aside for conservation surrounding the island nation.

While supporting some of the nation's most significant marine environments, the park also supports a thriving commercial fishing industry.

Other than the Coral Sea, almost all of the Queensland coast could be included as well as parts of the New South Wales coast.

Mr Burke said on Monday the government would unveil its final maps and proposals "in the next two weeks".

"If we make the decisions that are before us, we're looking down the track at possibly the most significant individual step in conservation in Australia, in terms of number of hectares being placed in conservation," he said.

"The draft maps that have gone out would provide the biggest single improvement in (marine) conservation that Australia has seen.

"The connection of the Coral Sea protected area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park would provide the single biggest protected marine area in the world."

Commonwealth Fisheries Association spokesman Brian Jeffriess said the government had been very good consulting with industry to date.

But he said the government and industry had not ruled up an adjustment program, to help support the seafood industry which is set to lose valuable fishing grounds.

Mr Jeffriess said the industry had understood that the announcement for the marine parks and industry assistance would be made at the same time.

He said it was very possible that a spat similar to the scale of the live cattle export ban fall-out could be brewing between the government and industry.

Mr Jeffriess said South Australian fishermen had already filed a $500 million class action against their state government, and a similar situation could ensue federally.

The plan for a national network of marine parks could remove between 30-40% from Australia's exclusive economic zone, he said.

"There is definitely going to be an impact on regional communities supported by the fishing industry, so we need to know what the effects could be of this decision," Mr Jeffriess said.

"We then need to talk with government about those impacts, and ensure an adjustment program is in place at the same time as the final decision."

A response has been sought from Mr Burke's office regarding the adjustment program.

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