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Australia Plans to Ban Fishing in More of Reef

June 02, 2003|From Reuters

CANBERRA, Australia — The government said today that it will ban fishing in about one-third of the Great Barrier Reef to protect the world's largest living structure from the impact of humankind.

The coral reef, one of Australia's main tourist attractions with its magnificent array of tropical fish, is under threat from record high temperatures, overfishing and pollution.

Environment Minister David Kemp said the plan would increase so-called green zones, where commercial and recreational fishing is banned, from 5% of the 1,200-mile reef to more than 30%, prompting instant protests from fishermen.

The Great Barrier Reef, off Queensland state in Australia's northeast, injects an estimated $975 million into the economy each year through tourism and fishing.

Kemp said the plan, expected to be approved this year, would boost the protected area from 6,178 square miles to 44,020 square miles, creating the world's largest network of protected marine areas.

It would help increase declining fish stocks by protecting crucial breeding grounds, he said, with large fines for violations.

The commercial fishing industry warned the plan could devastate fishing firms.

"More fishermen will be competing over fewer fish," said Duncan Souter, head of the Queensland Seafood Industry Assn.

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