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$100m for fishermen locked out of marine parks

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Tom Arup, Bianca Hall

Osprey Reef (inside the new Coral Sea marine reserve). This is the first of its kind and is the product of 36,000 images taken over the past few months as part of the Catlin Surey:
 supplied images of for bridie smith story 15 november 2012. Click for more photos

Inside Osprey Reef

Photographs from a virtual dive of Osprey Reef, which sits within a new Coral Sea marine reserve on the Great Barrier Reef. Around 36,000 images have been taken over the past few months as part of the Catlin Seaview Survey. 

Vast tracts of Australia's oceans have been formally declared as protected areas, as part of long-running efforts to establish the world's largest network of marine reserves.

The new marine reserves total more than 2.3 million square kilometres of protected ocean along the South Australian, West Australian, New South Wales and Northern Territory coasts.

Announcing the details of the declaration, Environment Minister Tony Burke said Australia was now a world leader of ocean protection.

''It is the most complete network of marine parks in the world,'' Mr Burke said at the Sydney Aquarium.

He said the move was designed to ensure coming generations would not have to learn about the beauty of oceans from keeping aquariums or watching Finding Nemo.

Mr Burke said the government would provide a $100 million ''adjustment package'' for fishers, which was deliberately more than it had calculated was required.

Fishers will also have until July 2014 before restrictions on what practices can take place in the reserves come into effect.

The new marine reserves cover the vast Coral Sea, which sits between the Great Barrier Reef and the edge of Australian waters and is home to dozens of important marine species and coral reefs.

The declaration – which comes after almost 20 years of consultation and negotiation – completes a ring of more than 3 million square kilometres of reserves right around the coast. Marine parks were established across the Great Barrier Reef and in Victorian and Tasmanian waters under the Howard government.

Mr Burke said the majority of the 80,000 submissions sent to the government since it first outlined the borders for the new reserves in June had been supportive.

Only some of the new reserves - which are in Commonwealth waters starting several kilometres off the coast – will completely ban fishing. Some will allow just recreational fishing, while others will permit some commercial fishing.

The opposition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, said while the Coalition supported marine parks, the failure to change boundaries showed consultation with industry had been a sham.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert welcomed the plan, ''in spite of the ongoing and ill-informed scare campaign that has been run by some sectors''.

''Effective marine protection is absolutely essential for the maintenance of long term fish stocks and biodiversity which supports sustainable industry and communities around our coastline.''

While the declaration of the reserves will not have to face Parliament, management plans for each area - now being developed by the government - will need parliamentary approval.

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