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Scientist Opposes Coral Sea Marine Park

AUSTRALIA - A world fisheries expert says marine parks do more harm than good in sustainable fisheries management.

Dr Ray Hilborn who is Professor of the School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences at the University of Washington says there is no hard scientific evidence to suggest the fisheries in the Coral Sea are over fished, or species are endangered, reports ABCRural.

Dr Hilborn's comments come at a time when the federal government is proposing to establish a million square kilometre marine park in the Coral sea, which would see a ban on trawling, and restrictions on commercial fishing.

Professor Hilborn has released a paper which says Australian fishing policy isn't based on sound science.

He says policy-makers and public opinion have been unduly influenced by what he calls 'prophets of doom and gloom' and further restrictions, such as planned marine parks, could be harmful.

"It's very clear from the scientific literature that if you're not overfishing, which Australia is not, then you're not going to improve your fisheries' yields, you're actually going to decrease your fisheries' yields."

"There seems to be an enormous perception in Australia that its fisheries are not sustainable, whereas the Government data clearly shows that they are sustainable," he says.

Dr Terry Hughes Head of the Australia Research Council's Centre for Coral Studies says the Coral sea is one of the last pristine marine ecosystems and needs to be protected.

"It still has more or less intact populations of so-called mega-fauna, like sharks and marlin turtles."

"So this is a unique opportunity for Australia to set aside the Coral Sea as a highly protected reserve so that it doesn't go the same way as everywhere else on the planet has through impacts of over fishing and pollution."

Dr Hughes says a ban on trawling has nothing do with fisheries management.

" A ban on trawling is to protect the ecosystem that is ploughed up by trawl, things like the sponges and corals that grown on the substrate."

Lucy Towers

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