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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 9457


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (09:33): I am pleased to be able to speak about our wonderful marine environment yet again. I would like to point out some of the risks that our marine environment has faced since the last time we were talking about the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bioregional Plans) Bill 2011. Since August this year, we have had two spills in the North Sea from oil production, at least one from a Shell platform. We have had spills from ConocoPhillips in China. We have had the shipwreck and the oil washing ashore in New Zealand. We have had a spill by Chevron 370 kilometres north-east of the Rio de Janeiro state, which continues to pump oil into the sea. That was caused by Chevron underestimating the pressure in their deep-sea mining. And of course we are still seeing oil wash ashore on the coastline of America from BP's Deepwater Horizon oil platform. I raise these issues because they highlight the threats to our marine environment.

We were very privileged in Parliament House yesterday to have Sylvia Earle—who is commonly referred to as 'Her Deepness', due to her knowledge of and well-known lifelong commitment to the marine environment—speaking to us upstairs in room 2S2. She reminded us that in fact we are all sea creatures, that we all depend on the marine environment for our life support systems. She reminded us that the marine environment is not a luxury, that it is not something that you add on top of things, that it is our life support system and that we need to value the oceans as a critical element of our life support systems. She told us about a speech she had made to the World Bank, where she had had a picture of a globe on the wall and had pointed to it and said, 'That is our world bank.' She was right. That is what the oceans and our marine environment are.

It is a tragedy that it has taken this long to recognise and start paying attention to the fact that our oceans are vital to our life support systems. Sylvia Earle pointed out that, although we have made tremendous gains in the last couple of years in our understanding of the marine environment, we have already lost more than we will ever know. She also pointed out that we have 400 dead zones in our coastal areas around the world and that we have only seen five per cent of our marine environment. She pointed out yet again that our oceans are the blue heart of our planet, that we have only protected a minuscule amount of our marine environment and that we need to redress that. One of the issues that are constantly on the agenda when we are talking about the marine environment is the accusation that we are locking up the oceans. It is a great shame that we have not learnt from the mistakes made in the terrestrial environment. What we have done there is manage to save the bits that have not been developed yet. For the marine environment, we need to take a much more strategic and holistic approach, which is what bioregional planning is about.

Some of the voices raised are trying to convince recreational fishers that they should be fundamentally opposed to the plans to establish a national series of world-class marine sanctuaries because it is bad for recreational fishing. In fact, this is an old-fashioned way of thinking. Marine sanctuaries and recreational fishing should—and must—exist side by side. Unless we have a comprehensive system of marine sanctuaries and marine national parks in place we will not have fisheries in the future. We already know the alarming state of our fish stocks around the planet. We already know that many of our marine species are endangered. Unless we take action now, there is going to be less and less access to fish stocks—not because we have marine sanctuaries in place but because we have overfished our oceans to the point of no return.

We need to have a science based system of marine sanctuaries in place so that we can ensure that Australia's unique oceans are protected. We know that our oceans contain many species that are found nowhere else in the world. Of the species that we now know that are there, 90 per cent are found nowhere else—not only nowhere else in Australia but nowhere else on the planet. We know that the evidence is in that shows that marine sanctuary zones are critical—crucial—in maintaining healthy oceans and fish stocks. This is internationally recognised as best practice. We believe that it is the most appropriate strategy for ensuring that our oceans are protected.

Australians love their oceans. Fishing is a big part of our beach culture. We know that recreational fishing numbers are increasing, with more people fishing more often. I see that evidenced very clearly in my home state of Western Australia. But unfortunately we also know that advanced fish-finding technology and larger boats mean fishers are travelling further and fishing longer in deeper waters. This is not the same as wetting your line off a jetty a few times a year. Fishers can return to the same spot again and again with GPS. In the past, this did not happen.

The annual recreational fishing catch is thought to be around a quarter of the annual commercial take, 45,000 tonnes. For many recreational fisher favourites, the catch is much higher than the commercial catch. There are a lot of species that recreational fishers favour and they catch more of them than commercial fishers do. Recreational fishing is not benign. It impacts on our oceans; it is a fallacy to pretend that recreational fishing has no such impact. Some people say that it is okay because recreational fishers use catch and release. But we know that there are high mortality rates from catch and release. If you catch four and keep one, with a 60 per cent mortality rate two out of the three fish that you release die. This is the same as if you keep three. There is a lot of research in now that shows the recreational fishing is having an impact.

We also know that marine sanctuaries help generate new fish stocks, so recreational fishing and marine protection can and must go hand in hand. Rather than railing against marine sanctuaries, we believe that—with the right information and better education as to the benefits of marine sanctuaries—recreational fishers should be behind this campaign to protect our oceans. Only by protecting our oceans will recreational fishers have fish available to them in the future. You only have to look at some of the videos that have come from the marine sanctuaries that are already in place to see that they teem with fish. (Time expired)