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Battle Stations In Australian Marine Parks War

Consumers are being warned they might have to pay more for their seafood because of a plan to cover nearly half of the state's waters with marine parks.

The seafood sector – fearing the financial implications and potential job losses – on Monday will launch a campaign aimed at overturning the State Government's plan.

Port Lincoln tuna fisherman Hagen Stehr said he would resign this week from the Marine Parks Council in protest against the way the 19 marine parks were being introduced.

The Marine Parks Act 2007 states people should bear an appropriate share of the costs that flow from their activities.

Once the marine parks’ boundaries are established, exclusion zones will be created from which everyone will be banned.

Mr. Stehr said: “People are taking this very seriously because they can see their livelihoods slipping away.”

“They will have to change the marine parks’ boundaries because the industry will not put up with it and the battle will just keep getting bigger and bigger as the next election approaches,” he said.

Mr. Stehr is convinced the introduction of the parks, aimed at preserving the marine environment, will lead to a cost-recovery system where recreational anglers, boat owners, jet-skiers, fishermen and fish farms will be charged a fee. As a consequence, consumers would be forced to pay more for seafood, he said.

However, Marine Parks manager Chris Thomas said nobody would be charged to operate in the parks, which would be funded by the government.

“Most of the management and policing will be done by community volunteers,” he said. Mr. Thomas said the only way fees could be charged would be if Parliament changed the Act.

The seafood industry campaign, which may end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, is being led by the Marine Parks Taskforce, which represents the commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors.

The protest drive will include public information, advertising, legal action and a campaign targeting state Environment Minister Jay Weatherill.

Chairman Neil MacDonald said the taskforce had sought independent scientific and legal advice and economic analysis on the implications of the proposed boundaries.

The taskforce wanted the outer boundary process re-started with the involvement of key stakeholders.

Mr. Macdonald said the industry was worried because after marine parks had been introduced in Queensland and NSW, boundaries and exclusion zones were expanded.

The Eyre Regional Development Board has strongly attacked the marine parks’ plan because it threatens one of the region’s biggest industries.

Chief executive Mark Cant said banks were reviewing assets and the amount they would lend because of the marine parks.