Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - OPINION -

Dou­glas Shire Sus­tain­abil­ity Group (DSSG), the shire’s only broad based en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy group, is ask­ing those who care to join up, to be kept in­formed and to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the well be­ing of a very spe­cial place.

Given its lo­ca­tion be­tween two world her­itage ar­eas and its eco­nomic de­pen­dence on those as­sets, Dou­glas needs a strong, in­de­pen­dent com­mu­nity group to ad­vo­cate specif­i­cally for the en­vi­ron­ment and to hold gov­ern­ments to ac­count. For that we need your sup­port. Be­sides sup­port­ing spe­cific is­sues such as the Stop Adani cam­paign and Keep Par­adise Plas­tic Free cam­paign, our re­cent ef­fort in­cludes work­ing with Council to im­ple­ment the elec­tion com­mit­ments made by coun­cilors.

Those com­mit­ments cen­tred on the key en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues fac­ing this shire and op­por­tu­ni­ties to be­come the leader it claims to be.

They are about main­tain­ing the fixed ur­ban foot­print, the role council can play in re­duc­ing wa­ter borne pol­lu­tion to the reef, cli­mate pol­icy and the Dain­tree Coast. We be­lieve these poli­cies are also key to the eco­nomic fu­ture of the shire, so should not be con­tro­ver­sial.

Last week the Great Bar­rier Reef Foun­da­tion re­leased its Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nom­ics re­port which cal­cu­lates the Great Bar­rier Reef’s full eco­nomic, so­cial and iconic value at $56 bil­lion.

The re­port found that in 2015/16 the reef added $6.4 bil­lion of eco­nomic value to the Aus­tralian econ­omy, in­clud­ing $3.9 bil­lion in Queens­land. While the reef em­ploys 39,000 people di­rectly, 64,000 jobs are linked to it na­tion­ally.

With na­ture based tourism amount­ing to over 80 per cent of the lo­cal econ­omy, be­ing a leader in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy and ac­tion is fun­da­men­tal to our on­go­ing rep­u­ta­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion of a stun­ningly beau­ti­ful shire.

We would there­fore en­cour­age tourism busi­ness to join up, con­trib­ute to DSSG pol­icy and sup­port ad­vo­cacy with lo­cal, state and fed­eral govern­ment. Mem­ber­ship is only $10.

DSSG mem­bers are also ac­tive in sup­port­ing other en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy groups in the wet trop­ics and par­tic­i­pate in Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Au­thor­ity’s Lo­cal Ma­rine Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.

DSSG aus­pices grants for smaller com­mu­nity groups such as Whyan­beel Com­mu­nity Group which is fo­cused on ri­par­ian wa­ter­way health.

We sup­port eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the Shire, and have con­trib­uted to the Council’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment strat­egy.

We share the vi­sion of that strat­egy which is to be the world’s lead­ing sus­tain­able trop­i­cal shire.

We’d like to do all we can to help de­liver that as­pi­ra­tion.

Didge McDon­ald, pres­i­dent, DSSG

of lo­calised ex­tinc­tion.

While en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors will con­trib­ute, gill­net­ting is con­sid­ered by many ex­pe­ri­enced fish­ers, in­clud­ing re­tired gill­net­ters, as be­ing one of the ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to this de­cline. It is also the one sin­gle fac­tor we can so eas­ily change with min­i­mal ad­verse im­pact.

Un­der the cur­rent man­age­ment of Queens­land’s fish­eries, the in­shore ma­rine re­sources in Dou­glas Shire wa­ters will con­tinue to de­cline as gill­net­ters slowly work them­selves out of an in­come.

We are al­ready reach­ing the stage where there are not enough fish left in in­shore Dou­glas Shire wa­ters for full­time fish­ers to sus­tain their liveli­hoods.

But it won’t stop there, the re­source may then con­tinue to be fur­ther ex­hausted, quite legally, by sub­sidised net­ting by part-time gill­net­ters, who gain their main in­come from non-fish­ing sources.

To put it bluntly, how dumb are we in Queens­land, in Dou­glas Shire, to con­tinue to per­mit this process of slow ex­tinc­tion of our trea­sured and once rich in­shore ma­rine re­sources?

Since 2006 people in Dou­glas Shire have been ad­vo­cat­ing the ex­clu­sion of off­shore and out-of-town gill­net­ters from in­shore wa­ters by des­ig­nat­ing the Port Dou­glas Smooth and Par­tially Smooth wa­ters a net-free-zone (NFZ).

It is not a big ask and the re­wards to the Dou­glas Shire com­mu­nity far out­weigh any costs.

Looked at broadly, dis­pas­sion­ately, it is sim­ple com­mon sense. It is also sound eco­nomic sense. Such an NFZ meets all the triple­bot­tom-line cri­te­ria for sound, sus­tain­able com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment: great for lo­cal busi­nesses, great for the en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife, great for tourism and great for kids.

Right now, the Dou­glas Shire is wit­ness­ing a valu­able, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity slip through its fin­gers, pos­si­bly for ever.

To al­low the sta­tus quo with re­gards gill­net­ting to con­tinue, will be viewed by our chil­dren in the fu­ture, as un­for­giv­able: a sim­ple golden op­por­tu­nity lost for­ever.

Rea­sons in­clude a lack of aware­ness of just how abun­dant re­sources and wildlife once were (and could be again) within the Dou­glas Shire wa­ters by any­one un­der 35 years of age.

Also at play are be­ing “too busy”, “not a pri­or­ity”, sym­pa­thy for the “poor fish­er­man and his fam­ily”, ap­a­thy and lethargy.

These fac­tors may all play a part in why there has been no ac­tion so far.

But now is the time for ac­tion be­fore it is too late (although it may al­ready be too late for some lo­cal pop­u­la­tions e.g. of triple­tail, black jew­fish, es­tu­ary saw shark, our en­demic snubfin dol­phin, etc.).

Of spe­cial con­cern is some­thing we have only re­cently dis­cov­ered.

We have just learned of an­other rea­son for lack of ac­tion by au­thor­i­ties to cur­tail gill­net­ting by out­siders in our lo­cal wa­ters. This is the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion about the sup­posed “se­lec­tiv­ity” of gill­net­ting and the out­ra­geous claim that grey mack­erel do not reach “breed­ing con­di­tion” in lo­cal wa­ters!

The JCU Re­port from their Port Dou­glas re­gion oral his­tory sur­vey in 2010, of grey mack­erel fish­ing, was never re­leased.

This was de­spite sev­eral at­tempts over the years to ob­tain it. I fi­nally re­ceived a copy of the 2010 study on 6 June 2017.

People are ask­ing why it has not been re­leased.

This needs to be for­mally ad­dressed and a state­ment made by JCU, to the Dou­glas Shire com­mu­nity, to lay this mat­ter to rest.

Based on my ex­pe­ri­ence, I con­sider the JCU Re­port fails to ad­e­quately ad­dress the nec­es­sary is­sues. It makes state­ments and con­clu­sions that are clearly wrong.

The con­clu­sions are based on in­ad­e­quate ref­er­ences.

When sev­eral se­nior com­mu­nity mem­bers tell us the con­clu­sions in the re­port make them lose faith in govern­ment and re­search sci­en­tists,

I trust, like me, you will feel com­pelled to ex­plore the truth.

David Cook, Wonga Beach

An off­shore "out of town" gill­net­ting boat haul­ing grey mack­erel near Snap­per Is­land in 2007.

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