Australia Seeks to Extend Fishing in Protected Waters

In Environment On

Australia plans to allow fishing across 80 percent of its protected maritime sanctuaries, the government said on Friday in a proposal that would vastly extend commercial activity in the world’s largest marine-reserves network.

If the plan, backed by the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is approved by Parliament, it will be the first time a nation has scaled back its regulations in protected maritime areas. The move could set a precedent for other countries, including the United States, that are considering similar reversals.

More than one-third of Australia’s waters — home to endangered species of sharks, turtles and whales — are protected by law.

Under the government’s proposal, “the boundaries of Australian Marine Parks will not change,” Josh Frydenberg, the environment minister, said in a statement. Instead, he said, the country would increase “the total area of the reserves open to fishing from 64 percent to 80 percent.”

Much of the increased fishing area would be in the Coral Sea Reserve, one of the country’s most stringently protected areas. Most fishing is now prohibited in the park, off Australia’s northeast coast.

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