Marine park exclusion zones released

COMMERCIAL fishermen could be up for hundreds of millions in compensation if approval is given for the Federal Government to make more than a third of the ocean surrounding Australia the largest marine park in the world.

Speaking to reporters at Sydney's Darling Harbour Aquarium on Thursday morning Environment Minister Tony Burke unveiled maps of proposed exclusion zones.

Under the changes oil and gas exploration would be limited in every state and territory.

The commercial fishing industry, particularly off the Queensland coast where the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been extended to include much of the Coral Sea, will be hardest hit.

Mr Burke described the protection of the Coral Sea as the "jewel in the crown" of the proposed changes and said commercial fishermen in affected areas would be compensated

He said he understood the fishing industry would be highly critical of the move, but it was time for Australia to set an example to the rest of the world about the importance of protecting ocean resources.

"Let's not forget the issue of responsibility every country has with the ocean - we share them," Mr Burke said

"Some (around the world) may ask why would we lead the way when we've got so much at stake?

"That's exactly why we lead the way."

As well as protecting marine animals, Mr Burke said the changes would help to secure a food source for Pacific Island natives who have been "deeply concerned" about over harvesting in Australian waters.

A public consultation process will take place before the changes take effect.



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