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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12569


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (19:24): On 13 September I was proud to co-host, together with my WA parliamentary colleagues Dr Mal Washer, the Liberal member for Moore, and Greens senator, Senator Rachel Siewert, the launch of Stocking up: securing our marine economy, a report on the economic value of Australia's oceans the Centre for Policy Development. This is the fourth forum we have co-hosted at Parliament House in order to show non-partisan support for leading research into Australia's marine resources. This report is an important and timely intervention from the independent Centre for Policy Development, especially given that in the next year a final series of decisions will be made by the federal government on the system of marine protected areas to safeguard our full range of marine values.

Our oceans provide a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits. They support thousands of regional jobs in commercial fishing and marine tourism. They provide sport and recreation for millions of Australians, and of course they have deep and abiding cultural and religious significance for Indigenous Australians. Above all, they support a rich and varied range of marine life.

During the last parliamentary sitting, a delegation from WA came to the parliament to advocate on economic, jobs, sporting, cultural and environmental grounds for the establishment of marine sanctuaries. They included representatives from the $881 million south-west tourism industry, comprising 4,000 businesses; the $300 million dive industry, representing 400,000 certified divers; the Save our Fish Stocks recreational fishing organisation, representing 4,000 South Coast anglers; and the conservation sector, led by Save Our Marine Life, the largest active conservation alliance in Australia. These people travelled across the country, from the south-west of Western Australia, to bring a message about the importance to them and to the thousands of people and businesses they represent that they want protection for our marine ecosystems in the south-west and that their livelihoods and lifestyle absolutely depend upon having healthy oceans.

We need to recognise that until now we have had insufficient analysis of the economic value that our oceans represent. In a first for Australia, the Stocking up report presents an economic assessment of the full value that our oceans provide. This report finds a shortfall in our official accounts of around $25 billion. This is the economic value provided by healthy ocean ecosystems, in forms such as carbon storage, fish nursery services and recreational opportunities—values that are currently not accounted for in our economic calculations. For example, the recreation fishing industry is estimated to be worth around $2.3 billion per year in food and retail revenue, while the value of Australia's oceans is estimated to be worth more than $15 billion in carbon emission reduction or offset capacity.

The value of Australia's oceans in the context of climate change cannot be undervalued. Marine life, seagrass and naturally occurring algae are among the most efficient carbon capture methods anywhere in the world, yet in the past few decades overfishing and the destruction of seagrass stocks have resulted not only in an imbalance in the ecological state of Australia's oceans but also in the decreased capacity of our oceans to be a natural counterbalance to carbon emissions in our fight against climate change. Cockburn Sound in my electorate of Fremantle is currently subject to efforts by the University of Western Australia to rehabilitate more than 3,000 hectares of lost sea grass. This decline, noticed more than a decade ago, is the result of harmful industrial and agricultural runoff seeping into the Sound, which adds excess nutrients into the water and results in eutrophication.

Cockburn Sound is not an isolated case. More than 29 per cent of the world's seagrass has been lost since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and, with rehabilitation measured in decades, we cannot afford for this trend to continue. Too often we think of the short-term economic benefits from our marine resources without considering the long-term costs. The Montara oil spill is just one example of this. Another is that since 1990 we have seen a six per cent decline in our oceans' productivity, and this will have a flow-on effect upon the economic value and production capacity of oceans, both in Australia and internationally. Sometimes we think of the short-term costs and forget about the long-term benefits.

Establishing a system of marine protected areas around the coasts of Australia will provide long-term benefits. The Australian government is taking action on this front, with proposed marine sanctuaries across Australia's south-west, with more under consideration as the marine bioregional planning process steadily approaches its conclusion. This process has strongly engaged with stakeholders from environmental, community, fishing and other groups, and there is a foundation acceptance in Western Australia that marine park sanctuaries will, in the long term, result in a stronger, healthier and more sustainable oceanic ecosystems. As we have seen from the CPD report, it will also bring considerable unforetold economic benefits.