Tasmanian Government has no plans to review marine protections despite calls for change | Ralph-Lauren

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Tasmania, already well behind national and international targets for protecting marine areas, has no plans to lift a moratorium on new reserves, says the State Government.

A government spokesperson told ABC Radio Hobart “there is no change to the Government’s policy of no new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which delivers certainty and security for industry”.

Professor Graham Edgar, a marine ecologist with the University of Tasmania, has spent the past 40 years studying MPAs in Tasmania, across Australia and globally — and says there should be more in the island state.

“Tasmania is not just behind the other states of Australia and the Commonwealth, but it’s well behind in the global sense in terms of not protecting or safeguarding the marine life in the full set of habitats around the coastline,” he said.

“National governments around the world, including the Australian government, agreed to try to safeguard 10 per cent of their waters as marine protected areas by the year 2020.

Photograph of underwater sponges from the bottom, looking up at a diver holding lights.
A diver in Tasmanian waters photographs the sponge gardens of Bicheno on Tasmania’s east coast.(Supplied: Michael Jacques)

“For over two thirds of the distance around the Tasmanian coast, there are no marine reserves.

Digital image of map of Tasmania with marine protected areas.
Tasmania’s mainland marine protection areas amount to 3 per cent of waters.(Supplied: Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment)

“There are quite a range of species and habitat types that are across that area that aren’t protected in any of the existing MPAs.

“At present, the protected marine parks around the Tasmanian coastline only extend from Bicheno in the northern east coast around to Port Davey, in the south west.”

Only 3 per cent of mainland Tasmanian waters (and another 3 per cent in the Tasmanian-governed waters off Macquarie Island) are protected.

The last MPAs were declared in 2001 and a moratorium on new ones announced in 2007.

‘Most people care a lot’

Carolina Garcia is a marine scientist whose PhD at the University of Tasmania looked specifically at the Tasmanian government’s 2007 decision to implement a moratorium on MPAs in Tasmania.

She said lobbying by different groups, as well as rumours regarding access for recreational fishers to MPAs, impacted the government’s decision in 2007 to introduce a moratorium.

She was keen to see marine protected areas put back on the agenda.

Photograph of a woman wearing a red top on a boat, surrounded by a sandy bay with trees and hills behind.
Dr Carolina Garcia, an international expert in Marine Protected Areas, completed her PhD looking at the governance of MPAs in Tasmania.(Supplied: German Soler)

“It is important to highlight that most stakeholders have an interest in conserving the marine environment,” Dr Garcia said.

‘A lot of misinformation around’

The International Union for Conservation and Nature, of which Australia and all other states and territories except Tasmania are members, defines MPAs as involving the protective management of natural areas according to pre-defined management objectives.

They can include no-take areas, and they can also be multiple use.

The UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Australia is a member, had a target of 10 per cent of waters protected by 2020.

In 2001, the state government’s MPA strategy had bipartisan support, though the last MPAs in the state were declared in 1991.

In 2007, following the identification of eight marine bioregions around the state and moves towards further protections, Labor’s then primary industries, water and energy minister, David Llewellyn, confirmed that they were no longer going to engage in discussion about the parks.

“I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not, but it just started spreading like rumours.”

Her research showed that more than 50 per cent of the influence on government regarding the halt in Tasmanian marine park exploration came primarily from the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

Jane Gallichan, CEO of the Tasmanian Association of Recreational Fishers (TARFish), said she was unable to comment as there was no organisational policy regarding MPAs.

Photograph of two men in wetsuits in a boat.
David Byrne, left, with Michael Jacques, who has launched Tasmanians for Marine Parks, a group dedicated to reigniting the discussion about protecting marine areas.(Supplied: Michael Jacques)

Coasts will not be ‘locked up’

Michael Jacques has been a recreational diver in Tasmanian waters since he was 18, “many decades ago”.

He recently launched a Facebook page, Tasmanians for Marine Parks, which he said was “a campaign to advocate for an adult conversation about more Tasmanian marine parks”.

Mr Jacques is conscious that discussions about changes to environmental protections in Tasmania can be divisive.

“I’d ask people just to keep an open mind to it and not be scared by all sorts of extreme statements that massive areas of Tasmanian coasts are going to be locked up. That isn’t going to happen.”

He called for more MPAs around the state and, in particular, in the Narawntapu/Rocky Cape region in the north west of the state.

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