Sea Shepherd helps
Habitat protection zone Coral Sea, approx 150km NE, you can fish, dropline, use crab pots and allows fishing-related tourism, does not allow any forms of long lines, trawls and gillnets. Marine National Park Zone approx 350 km NE, what is allowed: non-fishing related tourism, research, scuba diving and snorkelling and boat. Not allowed: All forms of fishing, charter, commercial, recreational and tourism fishing, from hand collection to long line, handline, rod and reel, crab and fish pots, trawls and nets. Conservation zone, approx 400km E, covers specific reefs and only allows handline rod and reel, hand dive collection, non-fishing and fishing related tourism, scuba, research and recreational fishing. There are several different other zones further south including habitat protection zone sea mounts, multiple use zone and general use zone, for further information on the overview of the proposed zones visit www. environment.gov.au/coasts/ mbp/reserves/ THE Sea Shepherd conservation society has offered their fleet of vessels, resources and expertise to help patrol the Coral Sea marine reserve at no cost to the Australian taxpayer.
The society, better known for waging war against Japanese whalers, has decided to help enforce the marine park and stop foreign fishing vessels from “exploiting the region’s fragile ecosystems through poaching, over-fishing, sharkfining and other illegal activities”.
The organisation said they would work alongside the appropriate authorities to design strategies, implement appropriate programs and “facilitate prosecution of illegal fishing activities.”
Founder and captain Paul Watson said the organisation will work with any government or local agency to protect their waters.
“We have resources and experience unlike those of other conservation organisations including worldwide awareness and support, ongoing program implementation, media relations expertise, training, shark finsniffing dogs, and vessel identification systems,” he said.
“We stand ready to put our enforcement expertise to work for Australia’s Coral Sea for the long term.” THE Federal Government’s Coral Sea marine park proposal has already cost local businesses well in excess of $100,000 - months before it is set to be declared.
Environment Minister Tony Burke last week announced the proposal to extend the marine park reserve into the Coral Sea, banning all fishing and netting, including commercial and recreational charters.
Bianca Charters is one of the only boats in Port Douglas that goes out to the Coral Sea for private charters including scuba-diving, scientific research, spear-fishing and marlin fishing and owner/operator Peter Sayer said the announcement alone has seen him lose business.
“Since the first day of the announcement, we’ve suffered cancellations worth around $120,000 from international guests because it’s a long way to Australia if we can’t guarantee access,” he said.
“We have other areas we can work but they’re all further away and we’ll need to put another hundred miles into travelling - that’s an extra 10 to 15 hours travel.”
Mr Burke has said the national marine reserve boundaries and zones are set in stone and the only question is “do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?”
The final national network of marine reserves looks likely to be declared before the end of the year and a 60-day consultation period is presently taking place and an assistance package for those affected is being discussed.
Far northern chairman of Marine Queensland Wayne Bayne said the proposed assistance is not enough, considering the government spent over $240 million in compensation for the Great Barrier Reef marine park in 2004.
“The GBR marine park is 348,000 sq km and this one right around Australia is about 3.1 million sq km and they’ve only allowed $100 million,” he said.
“The whole process has got nothing to do with protecting the environment it’s purely political and they don’t want public consultation.”
The coordinator of the network for sustainable fishing Douglas region David Cook said the marine park was a waste of resources and would prefer to see the money spent on improved inshore management.
“There’s a lot of tagging marlin, swordfish and big tunas and they’ve recovered the same tags indicating a good portion do survive and it’s sustainable and doesn’t cause damage,” he said.
“For some minster to say what you’re doing is worthless and dam- aging when in fact it’s providing jobs, foods and is highly sustainable seems ridiculous.”
Mr Cook is also worried that if the area is not properly policed and without regular charters, there could be an increase in illegal fishing from foreign boats.
Cairns and Far North environment centre marine campaigner Steve Ryan said local businesses will accept the marine reserve once they adjust to the changes.
“Claims of a lock out by some in the community have no basis,” Mr Ryan said.
“Only around one third of the Coral Sea reefs have been protected from fishing under this plan, twenty named and some unnamed reefs will remain open to various commercial and recreational fishing.”
Mr Sayer said the fishing industry will survive the restrictions if the Coral Sea marine park is approved, however, it will change the structure of the industry.
“We’ll survive it, we’ll restructure our industry but it’s merely a time and cost factor and we have got to go through the whole process again, putting us back at least five-years,” he said.
“I’ve invested close on $2 million and a five-year recovery makes you feel like giving up and considering going to another country.”
What is it: The proposed Coral Sea marine reserve has different zones for the conservation of the marine ecosystem in the Coral Sea. Size of proposed reserve: 989,842 sq km Types of Zones and their restrictions:
Offered to help: Sea Shepherd vessel The Steve Irwin