Net Advantage: securing our fisheries management



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Australian fishing’s competitive edge boosted by marine reserves

In Net advantage: securing our fisheries managementCPD researcher Michael Hayman argues Australian commercial fisheries can gain a global competitive edge by embracing the benefits of marine reserves.

On 11 September, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced a Review into the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, which is to be based on the best scientific evidence and consultation with industry stakeholders. Net advantage responds by suggesting the economic, reputational and ecosystem benefits delivered by marine reserves offer commercial fishing a potential market advantage over competitors, and an ‘insurance policy’ against the threats of rising fuel costs, volatile prices and stock depletion.

The scientific consensus behind marine reserves is well established. The economic arguments against them have withered with the passage of time. In an increasingly complex economy, Net Advantage suggests sustainable fisheries stand to benefit from marine reserves as part of a comprehensive risk management strategy.

Net advantage illustrates how marine reserves can increase fishery margins in the short term and insure fish stocks over the long term. Fisheries and marine protection should not be constructed as two sides of a debate.

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The world’s oceans are at risk of collapse, with significant implications for fishing industries, food security and marine biodiversity. Historically, overfishing has been the main threat to global fish stocks. This is now being exacerbated by the risks of climate change, pollution and pests.

Net advantage shows the Commonwealth marine reserves do not adversely impact commercial fishing in Australia, with 50 of the 62 fisheries unaffected, short-term economic losses of less than three per cent of annual catch, and potential job losses below one per cent. The benefits are threefold:

  • Marine reserves offer long-term insurance against population crashes.
  • Spill-overs from marine reserves can increase fish stock populations in surrounding areas, improving the economics of commercial fisheries.
  • Marine reserves can make it easier for commercial fisheries to gain and maintain sustainability certification: this provides an opportunity for fisheries to access premium markets.

Net advantage recommends the Review ensures the design of ‘no-take’ zones with the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network is informed by the latest science; that the Bioregional Advisory Panels seek common ground between stakeholders by focussing on the mutual benefits of marine reserves; and that sufficient funding is set aside for structural adjustment and ongoing management.

Getting this right is an opportunity we do not want to miss. Chopping and changing policy on marine protection will short-change all Australians, and deny future generations the chance to enjoy similar benefits from marine assets as their parents and grandparents.