Environment minister launches first salvo in the Battle for the Coral Sea

May 19th, 2009 : Recreational fishing peak bodies and the industry have reacted with mixed emotions after federal environment minister; Peter Garrett today declared 972,000 km2 of the Coral Sea, a Conservation Zone under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Speaking in Sydney, the minister also used the opportunity to launch the East Marine Bioregional Profile which is the first step in marine protected area planning for the east coast.

“It is of serious concern that a federal minister can be swayed by an American-led anti-fishing movement.” said Len Olyott, CEO of Recfish Australia, “We have been in discussions with the minister and his department in good faith and were led to believe that the Coral Sea would not be treated as a special case and would be reviewed as part of the East Marine Bioregional Plan. This declaration could be seen as the first step towards more fishing closures in the region.”

Due to the remote nature of the Coral Sea Region and the effort it takes to get there, recreational fishing in the region is sustainable and unlikely to have any negative impacts on marine biodiversity. The charter operators that work in the area have significant investments in boats and floatplanes and the gamefishers that access the area also have major investments in electronic equipment, tackle and boats. The economic consequences of banning recreational and charter fishing in the area would spell disaster for regional Queensland economies.

There is some solace in the fact that fishers will be able to continue to fish under Queensland recreational regulations rather than the more draconian regulations in place in other Commonwealth protected waters. It is also encouraging that the government has not caved in to demands for a total ban on fishing in the region.  

This could also be a significant opportunity for the Australian Government to work with fishers to establish a sensible management plan for the region. “The Coral Sea is the Everest of recreational fishing – sure, not a lot of people will ever get to fish the region in their lifetime but it’s something that they can aspire to. Recreational fishers are conservationists and our stewardship role deserves recognition. This is a fantastic opportunity for government to work with the recreational fishing community and develop a multi-use conservation area that can be enjoyed by all members of society” said Olyott.

A meeting to discuss the threats to biodiversity in the Coral Sea has been scheduled for 18-19 June; topics will include climate change, resource use, illegal fishing and pollution. Members of the public will also be given the opportunity to comment on the future of the Coral Sea. Full details will be posted at http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/coral-sea.html

 

Caption: Charter Operators in the Coral Sea have invested millions of dollars and conduct their activities in a sustainable manner.
Photo: Nomad Sportfishing Adventures

 

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