Coral Sea Marine Park plan creates a great blue divide
FISHERS have blasted the final blueprint for the world's biggest marine park in the Coral Sea as an impossibly large area to police that risks placing species in environmental jeopardy of poaching.
The contentious plan has even divided environmental groups about the need to lock up vast areas of ocean to commercial and recreational fishers.
Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday released the final map for the proposed Coral Sea marine park, as part of 44 new marine reserves to cover Australia’s waters.
The Coral Sea reserve, which covers 1.3 million sq km, adjoins the existing Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The Government proposes a $100 million compensation package for commercial fishing operators, with the details yet to come and funding on a case-by-case basis.
Dan McCarthy, owner of Cairns charter business Big Fish Down Under, said recreational and commercial fishers played a key role in overseeing activity in the Coral Sea and offered a form of protection against poachers.
He said locking fishers out of a vast green zone in a bid to protect species would likely result in the area coming under environmental threat from international poachers.
"It’s a perfect opportunity for poachers to move in and have devastating effects on the entire environment and our pristine reefs. I’m sure they’ll be rubbing their hands together saying, ‘You
"There’s going to be nobody out there to keep an eye on illegal fishing. When there’s nobody there it's open slather.
"We’ve asked (Mr Burke) numerous times throughout this process the question of how is it going to be policed and he just avoids the question," Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Burke did not respond to a request from The Cairns Post for comment about how the Coral Sea marine park would be policed.
Bob Lamason, who has operated Great Barrier Reef Tuna in Cairns for 22 years, said the planned marine park in the Coral Sea would drive him out of business because his closest fishery would be up to 550km away.
He is frustrated to lose his business to create a "deserted" marine park that he does not believe can be properly policed.
"The more activity there is the less crime that happens," he said about the Coral Sea.
"People can fish illegally and whose going to catch them?"
David McAtamney, managing director of Independent Seafood Producers at Portsmith, said it was "senseless" to create the massive marine park without a way to ensure it was protected.
"You’ve got an area half the size of Queensland. Australia hasn’t got a big enough navy to police it," he said.
Cairns and Far North Environment Centre marine campaigner Steve Ryan disagreed policing the great expanse of open ocean would be impossible.
"You can police it from illegal fishing the same way we’re doing it now, through aerial surveillance," he said. Mr Ryan said species were at risk of overfishing and needed the protection offered by the final plan.
"It is an historic step for marine conservation and we’re certainly glad the Federal Government has decided to take a global leadership role in creating the world’s largest network of marine protected areas," he said.
However, Australian Environment Foundation executive director Max Rheese said the Coral Sea marine park would be detrimental to marine biodiversity because it would result in more seafood being harvested from heavily exploited Asian fisheries.
"No demonstrated need backed by facts or evidence has been put on the table as to why these marine parks with their bans on fishing are necessary, particularly when we already have more marine protected area than the rest of the world combined," he said.
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Precious resource: Victorian tourists Jake Theodore and Jessica Bartlett enjoy Moore Reef yesterday with Reef Magicís Marine World. Picture: MARTINA NEHER