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PRESS RELEASE: Locals United in Concerns Over Marine Parks


[Esperance, Western Australia] – An Esperance community association, Oceans For Everyone Association, is raising strong objections to the proposed South Coast Marine Park, denouncing it as a political manoeuvre lacking scientific justification. This proposal, part of a promise to deliver 5 million hectares of protected marine areas in five years, fails to consider the environmental, economic, and social impacts on our local communities and industries.
Key Points of Contention:
1. Lack of Scientific Basis: The placement and size of the proposed marine park and its designated zones are not grounded in scientific evidence. The boundaries of sanctuary and other zones have been placed either arbitrarily or on the slightest justification. Even senior representatives like Peter Sharp from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions (DBCA) have admitted that the park’s location is flexible, merely fulfilling a political promise.
2. Existing Protections and Management: Currently, 48% of Australian waters are already designated as Commonwealth Marine Parks. Vulnerable species and habitats including in the Recherche Archipelago are already protected by existing conservation plans and other laws. Additionally, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) effectively manages the sustainability of fisheries and habitats. Indigenous communities’ right to continue their cultural practices are already recognised without needing additional special zones in marine parks, which often become tools to promote other political, social or economic agendas rather than genuine environmental protection.
3. Economic Impact on Local Fisheries: Our commercial fisheries are models of sustainability, operating on such a small scale that further restrictions are illogical. There are only 12 commercial fishers, on average, operating between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border at any one time. The proposed marine park plan threatens the viability of already sustainable fisheries, and unfairly restricts the whole community’s ability to access this public amenity for a range of socially and practically beneficial reasons.
4. Ineffectiveness of Marine Parks: Professor Ray Hilborn, a renowned fisheries scientist, emphasises that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are often ineffective. “When someone proposes establishing MPAs the first question to ask is what is the objective, how would you measure success and what alternative actions would achieve the same or better results,” says Hilborn. He notes that MPAs can be beneficial for tourism, particularly for snorkeling on reefs, but vast networks of MPAs are unnecessary for attracting tourists.
Hilborn continues, “Most MPA advocates say they want to ‘protect’ the marine ecosystem, but in practice the only threat MPAs protect the ocean from is fishing. They do not protect from global warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise, coastal development, runoff of sediments and pollutants from the land, invasive species, or shipping.” He suggests that if there is a problem with overfishing, the best solution is to reduce fishing effort directly rather than displacing it through MPAs.
About Professor Ray Hilborn
Professor Ray Hilborn is a leading expert in marine ecology, resource management, and fisheries sustainability. With extensive research in ecology, statistics, and modeling, his work aims to identify the best management practices for sustainable fisheries. Hilborn’s accolades include the 2016 International Fisheries Science Prize, the 2010 election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2006 Volvo Environmental Prize. His published works and advisory roles underscore his commitment to evidence-based conservation practices. He has extensively analysed global fisheries data and emphasised the need for objective, scientifically grounded approaches to marine management.
Lessons from Other Regions
Hilborn points to California as a cautionary example: “California has established a network of over 100 MPAs, and a recent 10-year evaluation showed that it had not increased biodiversity or climate resilience, and there is no evidence that overall fish abundance increased. Certainly, in some MPAs fish abundance was higher, but the fishing effort had simply moved, and the analysis of regional abundance indicated no net benefit. The 10-year review found that there were two keys to increasing tourism: nearby parking and allowing some harvest.”
Similarly, New South Wales evaluated threats to its marine ecosystems and found that fishing was not among the top ten threats. The primary threats were coastal development, terrestrial impacts, and climate change. MPAs do not address these issues. Hilborn’s advice is clear: “Don’t repeat the mistakes made in California. Identify the threats to your marine ecosystem and apply the appropriate tools. MPAs may be the best tool in some places, but if you have a good fisheries management system, it is the way to solve fisheries problems.”
Control and Profit Motives
Marine parks can lead to restrictive access without public consultation, as seen with the closure of Horizontal Falls. Moreover, indigenous corporations managing these parks may enter into deals with commercial operators, including multinationals, as observed in the Buccaneer Marine Park, where a fish farm expansion is being considered. This contradicts the parks’ supposed conservation goals.
Influence of International Lobby Groups
The process surrounding the proposed South Coast Marine Park has been significantly influenced by the US-based eco-lobby group Pew Trusts. Pew’s involvement raises serious concerns about the transparency and integrity of the decision-making process. Recently, Pew placed a full-page colour advertisement in The West Australian advocating for maximum sanctuary areas in the proposed marine park. Despite the maps and details of the proposal not being publicly released, Pew appears to have had early access to this information, raising questions about their influence and the exclusion of local voices.
The Environment Minister has downplayed Pew’s involvement, yet Pew was appointed to chair the environmental advisory group for the marine parks, sidelining local stakeholders. Moreover, during the public consultation process, proforma letters from overseas Pew members are given equal weighting to handwritten submissions from local residents, further skewing the process in favor of Pew’s agenda.
Pew’s involvement is not based on science or local needs but on a “feel-good” ideology that often disregards factual evidence and community impact. Oceans For Everyone Association urges the government to prioritise local input and scientifically backed data over the interests of international lobby groups.
Community Opposition
The majority of residents in the affected areas oppose the plans for the South Coast Marine Park. Oceans For Everyone Association has thousands of letters of opposition to the proposed South Coast Marine Park from concerned locals and others who would be affected by the proposed South Coast Marine Park. The current proposal disregards the voices of those who will be most impacted, threatening their way of life and economic stability. We urge the Cook government to reconsider this plan and to base any future decisions on properly engaged consultation with the whole community, robust scientific evidence and genuine environmental needs, rather than abstract political promises.
Conclusion
Oceans For Everyone Association stands united against the South Coast Marine Park proposal. We call for transparent, science-based decision-making processes that genuinely protect and preserve our marine ecosystems, including the value to the culture and heritage of Aboriginal people, without unjustifiably compromising local livelihoods and sustainable practices. It is crucial to consider alternative conservation methods that address real threats and support both the environment and the communities that depend on it.
For more information or to support our cause, please contact Oceans for Everyone Association
Neil Pechar, Chair
0408 937 359
[email protected] About Oceans For Everyone Association
Oceans For Everyone Association is dedicated to preserving the environmental, economic, and social well-being of our region. We advocate for evidence-based policies that support sustainable development and protect the interests of our local community
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Media Contacts:Name: Neil PecharCompany: Oceans For Everyone AssociationEmail: [email protected]Phone: 0408 937 359Share:FacebookPinLinkedInEmailTweet

PRESS RELEASE: Locals United in Concerns Over Marine Parks


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