In the Parliament of Australia House of Representatives, a Private Member’s Business motion was presented that the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management Plan 2014-2024, made under section 370 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 on 5 March 2013, be disallowed. These management plans follow on from the development of Commonwealth marine reserves around Australia.
The debate that followed this Private Member’s Business motion was very colourful, and highlighted the differences of opinion in favour of the motion (to disallow the management plans) versus those against the motion. The plans set out how the marine reserves are to be managed and what activities can and cannot be undertaken.
At the heart of the matter are peoples’ fishing rights and access, and the perception (real and imagined) that large areas of the ocean are being locked away from fishing resources. On the other side of the debate is the broader view that the marine reserves protect bioregions, having first identified the different sorts of environments and features in the ocean through bioregional planning.
In total, the management plans for six Commonwealth marine reserves around Australia were moved to be disallowed. The voting at the end of the debate resulted in a narrow defeat of all six motions to disallow the management plans, meaning that the management plans have passed through the House of Representatives and now goto the Senate for discussion.
It is worth reading the Hansard record of the House of Representatives debate to understand the political issues around these marine reserves (starts on page 55):