Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Report slams management of marine national parks

Melbourne Weekly: Report slams management of marine national parks

VICTORIA is failing to protect its marine national parks, spending money earmarked for their preservation elsewhere, a scathing report by the Auditor-General has found.

Presented to Parliament this month, the report into Marine Protected Areas found Parks Victoria could not demonstrate that it is effectively managing MPAs or that it is being effective or efficient in protecting marine biodiversity within MPAs.

It found that funding for managing MPAs has been used for other activities; and that Parks Victoria could not assess if its programs had been effective because of poor follow-up and tracking of resources.

In response, angling groups have called for the abolition of Victoria's 30 marine parks.

The state's first marine parks were created in 2002. Fishing, waste and ballast discharge, and removing marine life, shells or coral is banned inside them.

VRFish, Victoria's peak recreational fishing body, said the report showed that marine parks - which cover about 11 per cent of the Victorian coast - were fundamentally flawed.

VRFish executive officer Christopher Collins said a key finding of the report was that the marine environment could not be protected by quarantining select parts of the coastline.

He said that if anglers were allowed to fish in parks, they could act as "eyes and ears" for the environment and alert authorities to any problems.

"The ideals surrounding marine protected areas just do not work and should be abandoned in favour of a broader and much more effective system of management that extends from the catchment to the coast" he said.

The Auditor-General's report did not call for the abolition of marine parks, only for their improvement. It states that "Parks Victoria should develop park management plans … that specify actions, targets, performance indicators, accountabilities and time frames.

The Victorian National Parks Association, an environmental lobby group, denied that the report meant that marine parks should be abolished. The association's executive director, Matt Ruchel, said the report showed that Parks Victoria was "an agency under stress".

Parks Victoria chief executive Bill Jackson said "there is ongoing monitoring and management [of marine parks] … this report shows we need to improve the way we track that work. We will do this."

Environment and Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith told Parliament that the Baillieu government would accept the report's recommendations.

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