Coral Sea meeting attracts huge crowd

On the Wednesday night of April 29, the 700 seat Crosswell Hall in Cairns overflowed with around 1000 concerned local recreational and commercial fishers and associated industry members, gathered to hear speakers discuss a proposal put forward by American Green lobby group PEW to close the Australian section of the Coral Sea to all fishing.
Those present heard a number of experts speak against the proposal, including esteemed senior marine biologist Walter Stark, Fishing Trades Association executive officer Doug Joyner, local tackle retailer Robert Erskine and well known Cairns surgeon and environmental advocate Dr Mike Mansfield.
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter was notably even more flamboyant than usual in his condemnation of the proposal. Member for Cairns, Jim Turnour, received applause for his declaration that he would not support the proposal, regardless of his party’s official position.

The 700 seat hall was overflowing with around 1000 people in attendance at the meeting.

Some facts to emerge from the meeting: PEW is an incredibly wealthy and influential organisation, with billions of dollars at its disposal. The family involved made most of their wealth in the petrochemical industry; all the “carbon credits” in the world would not repay the environmental vandalism caused by their wealth generation. Do they now feel a need to assuage their environmental conscience by stuffing up someone else’s back yard?

Federal Dept of Environment and Heritage is in the early stages of creating a “Management Plan” for the Coral Sea area – this was confirmed by attendee Charlton Clarke – many in attendance no doubt wondering how the region is not being managed now…?
Mike Mansfield produced figures proving that our tropical offshore fishery is the most heavily managed and under-exploited in the entire world. Clarke declared that this new management plan will be subject to community consultation and input. This announcement provoked a rowdy response from the crowd, many of whom still have bitter memories of the GBRMPA RAP (Representative Area Program) reef closures. They held the meetings, we turned up, told them what we wanted, and the GBRMPA implemented its original proposal.
GBRMPA declined to attend the meeting, sending a statement that the Coral Sea was outside its jurisdiction. The proposed closed area’s western
boundary is the eastern boundary of the GBR marine park and the GBRMPA is not interested or involved?

Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, speaking against the proposal.

Prime Minister Rudd has signed a letter in the PEW submission in relation to the “Battle of the Coral Sea” historical aspect. The Japanese invasion fleet destined for northern Australia was stopped during this key WW2 battle. PEW devote 10 pages of the submission to the importance of the “war graves” aspect of the Coral Sea. Historic records show the battle was fought in
international waters farther east; of the many wrecks listed by PEW in the closure area only four are known to be post 1930 wreckage and none are sunken warships from the Coral Sea battle. Australia already boasts 30 per cent of the “no fishing” MPAs (Marine Park Areas) in the world.

The massive area proposed would mean Australia with its proportionately smmall fishing effort (1/30th per capita of the world average) would have more than 50 per cent of the world’s “no take” MPAs. According to Dr Starke not a single marine vertebrate has become extinct in Australian waters. In the US only one per cent of MPAs ban rec fishing. Australia appears to offer a softer target than that in PEW’s own back yard.
Rec fishing in Qld is worth over $200 million annually, to damage that industry and replace it with a massively expensive “Pew Park” funded by Australian taxpayers seems nonsensical.

Local Federal Member, Jim Turnour, and principal meeting organiser Wayne Bayne. 

Local Labor Federal Member, Jim Turnour, was so impressed by the size of the turnout (over 1000 people in a town of 140,000) that he said, “I never thought it would get to this level.”
Turnour publicly declared his opposition to the proposal for the first time and repeated his declaration on local breakfast radio the next day. In this aspect at least meeting organiser and pro rec fishing “Vocal Local” Wayne Bayne was rewarded for the massive effort he has put in to get the meeting off the ground.

By Anthony Davies

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