A recent meeting held in Cairns by the Department of Environment, Water and Heritage (DEWHA), has again raised fears of further closures to fishing grounds in the Coral Sea and along the greater East Coast. The Cairns meeting over June 15 and 16 was, reportedly held in conjunction with concerned stakeholders, and in relation to the Eastern Marine Bio Regional Plan, in particular regarding closures to fishing in the Coral Sea.
A report on the meeting circulated by media identity and concerned anti-closures spokesman Rick Huckstepp, highlights inconsistencies with environmental group PEW’s submission.
At the meeting a booklet discussion paper tabled was found to contain many errors; despite this irregularity being highlighted by meeting attendees the proceedings continued unabated.
Those at the meeting were told that by the end of 2010, a significant proportion of the Coral Sea would be a “no take” zone, and at the first review – at a year to be set but believed to be within a five to seven year period – the no take zone would be increased.
It was also revealed that another meeting will be held in Brisbane late next month to discuss with stakeholders further closure zones off the southern Queensland coast. The Brisbane meeting was reportedly agreed to after stakeholders at the Cairns meeting complained of being asked to put forth information on other areas on the east coast, far from their physical locations; these areas are believed to be included in a Stage 2 submission by the Pew Foundation to the Federal Government. The Stage 2 proposal covers the waters from the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to south of Bermagui NSW, from the 3nm mark offshore to the 200nm Economic Exclusion Zone.
Fishing writer and concerned Cairns-based recreational fisherman, Anthony Davies, revealed he was totally unaware of the recent June meeting in Cairns set down by DEWHA.
“I didn’t know about this meeting. For obvious reasons it was not well publicised. At the May meeting it was implied that the stakeholder input process was months or years away. The logic behind making these massive areas No Take defies belief, PEW themselves state that there is minimal fishing input on the Aussie section of the Coral Sea,” said Davies.
According to Rick Huckstepp there is a proposed bioregional plan for every state and territory in Australia, the proposed plans are:
* South West Plan proposed to be in place by end of 2009; Cape Jervis SA to Exmouth WA.
* North Plan (in place by end April 2010) Believed to run from centre of Cambridge Gulf (Kimberley) to the tip of Cape York.
* North West Plan (in place end June 2010) Exmouth, WA to (approximately) Cambridge Gulf WA.
* Central East Plan (in place by end June 2010) Approximately below Bermagui to tip of Cape York.
At the time of writing it has also been revealed a DEWHA stakeholder meeting is currently underway in Sydney (June 18 and 19) in regards to these bioregional plans. DEWHA has claimed 29 major stakeholders had been invited to this meeting including recreational anglers, commercial fishers, and representatives of fisheries and scientists.
Huckstepp says he has contacted prominent members of the boating industry and game fishing clubs in regards to the meeting but none had been approached by DEWAH or were aware of the meeting.
Stay tuned for further updates on this issue as they come to light.