The economic cost of the Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network is small compared to its benefits. Wild claims of potential damage to fishing businesses are being made in the lead up to the final declaration of the Marine Reserve Network and the shape of its associated $100 million compensation package. These claims are not credible in light of the detailed and careful assessment conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) for the Regulatory Impact Statement on the new marine reserves. The appearance of excessive cost estimates is not surprising, given that such estimates are now a familiar part of the lobbying process.
In this paper, covered yesterday by the Cairns Post and ABC News, CPD’s Marine Economy Fellow Caroline Hoisington outlines:
- Credible estimates of the likely losses to fishers and communities from implementing the new marine reserves
- Why bigger estimates do not add up
- The principles on which compensation should be based
- The benefits of the proposed marine reserves network
- The importance of maintaining bipartisan support for marine protection
Various critics of the reserves, including opposition leader Tony Abbott, have said that the network needs to be more ‘science-based’. They should be careful what they wish for. It’s true that altering the network to more strongly reflect scientific recommendations would indeed have many benefits for the preservation of biodiversity and improvement in the long-term security of the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. To do this would require that a higher proportion of the Marine National Parks within the network cover high value coral reef, seagrass and coastal system areas, rather than open ocean. These are precisely the areas in which no-take zones tend to be most fiercely opposed by parts of the fishing lobby.