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South Australia’s seafood exports at risk

7 March 2014    

Government’s marine parks plan contradicts “premium food” focus

South Australia’s thriving seafood exports – which bring into the State more than $250 million every year – are under serious threat due to the looming introduction of marine parks and “no take” sanctuary zones, according to the commercial fishing industry.

With the Labor Government’s 19 planned marine parks set to come into effect in October, professional fishers are warning that the State’s economy – particularly in regional coastal towns – will be hit hard.

“The marine park sanctuary zones will wipe out critical fishing areas across SA which will result in reduced catches and a reduced supply of locally supplied seafood,” said Justin Phillips, Executive Officer of the South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council Inc (SARLAC).

“It will also mean reduced exports to international markets, which will not only be a major blow to the industry and regional economies, but also to the broader South Australian economy.”

SA’s commercial fishing industry currently exports over a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of seafood annually, however this is likely to be heavily impacted if extensive marine parks and sanctuary zones are implemented later this year.

Mr Phillips says Australia is already forced to import more than 70% of its seafood, and predicts this figure will rise even higher as a result of the State Government’s current marine park program.

“Considering the outstanding reputation SA has for seafood, it’s ridiculous to think that the vast majority of what South Australian consumers will be able to buy and eat in the future will be sourced from less sustainable foreign fisheries.”

Mr Phillips says the commercial fishing industry is also bemused by the State Government’s identification of “Premium Food and Wine from our Clean Environment” as one of seven strategic priorities for the State.

“On the one hand, the Government says that world demand for food will rise by 70% by 2050 and that premium food production is a major growth area for the SA economy,” he said.

“On the other hand, they have taken aim at seafood producers and commercial fishers who will be locked out of vitally important areas which sustainably produce significant quantities of high-value export food products, without any scientific evidence.

“We are simply staggered by the Weatherill Government’s marine parks policy which is completely at odds with its desire to grow the State’s production of premium food.”

Mr Phillips says the fishing industry also opposes the State Government’s notion that catching seafood from within a network of marine parks will enhance the products’ marketability.

“What we do agree with the Government on is the potential upside for premium food production, particularly to growing Asian markets which already regard South Australian seafood as among the best in the world due to our pristine oceans which we have sustainably managed for generations,” he said.

“However, South Australia is at serious risk of missing out on these export opportunities if the Labor Government proceeds in restricting the State’s professional fishers from working in such important areas as a result of current marine park sanctuary zones.”

For more information or to watch a new video featuring South Australian commercial fishers and their concerns with planned marine parks and sanctuary zones, visit

Justin Phillips, Executive Officer, South Australian Rock Lobster Advisory Council Inc (SARLAC), on 0400 281 904.

Kieran Hall on