The battle to save the Coral Sea
MORE than 30,000 people around Australia have signed petitions calling for a large marine park in the Coral Sea to prevent over-fishing, conservationists say.
But opponents of the proposal say 48,000 primary votes for the Fishing and Lifestyle Party at the Federal Election, in Queensland alone, showed the majority of people were against "locking up" the sea.
Campaigners on both sides of the debate are ramping up their efforts as the new Environment Minister, Tony Burke, prepares to take over the issue.
A spokeswoman for his department said his bureaucrats were briefing Mr Burke on the marine planning process.
As part of that process, the Government is considering a one million sq km marine park, with controls on fishing and likely "no-take" fishing-free zones.
Cairns and Far North Environment Centre marine campaigner Steve Ryan said the 30,000 signatories who had signed petitions calling for the park included 2500 recreational fishers.
Among them was Cairns activist and recreational fisherman Terry Spackman, who said the effects of overfishing were evident.
"I first came up north when my kids were young, in 1973, towing a caravan and stopping along the Queensland coast and you could throw a line in just about anywhere and catch yourself a meal," he said. "But the fish just aren't there anymore."
Cairns surgeon Mike Mansfield, who stood for the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party at the last election, said support for the cause was based on scientific misinformation.
"They are quoting 30,000 people, well we got more than 40,000 primary votes and we only had a presence in a very small part of Queensland," he said.
"We will wait and see what happens with this Government but we are going to be bigger and better and more organised next time around."
The Department of Environment spokeswoman said: "The Government made an election commitment to set up a network of marine reserves all around Australia but doing this in a way that minimises the impact on people who use our oceans."
Share this article
I'm in: Recreational fisherman Terry Spackman has joined calls for a marine park in the Coral Sea. Picture: Chris Hyde.
It is a tragic love story that started with a look across a crowded bar in Cairns and ended with a single bullet in Afghanistan.
THERE are no bullets, body bags or tearful loved ones left behind, but rugby league and Australian rules are meant to be enemies at war.
INTERSTATE visitors, particularly from Melbourne, have poured $1.7 billion into the Far Northern economy.
FEARS of another dengue fever epidemic in Cairns are spreading, with four local people yesterday confirmed to have fallen victim to the mosquito-borne disease.