Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett this morning declared the Coral Sea a “conservation zone”, heralding the future implementation of fishing restrictions and closures.
Garrett’s move follows intense lobbying by the US-funded Pew organisation to ban all fishing in the Coral Sea, which represents almost a million square kilometres of water and reef east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in northern Queensland.
The conservation zone is described by the Government as a “precautionary and temporary measure designed to prevent increasing pressure upon the area, while allowing existing controlled uses while the area is further assessed for any further permanent protection”.
At this stage recreational fishing will continue unchanged within the Coral Sea, federal Fisheries Minister Tony Burke said.
“I have reinforced the interests that recreational fishers have in the area and have been liaising with Minister Garrett to ensure existing regulations will not impose additional regulatory requirements ion recreational fishers,” Burke said in a letter to RecFish Australia CEO Len Olyott today.
Charter vessels working the Coral Sea area will now require permits, to be issued by Garrett’s office at no cost. It is unclear at this stage if commercial fishing operations in the Coral Sea will be affected by the conservation zone.
Rec fishing pundits said it was likely Garrett’s announcement of a Coral Sea conservation zone was a precursor for eventual fishing closures and bans.
Garrett also announced today the formation of an East Marine Bioregional Plan, including an assessment with “extensive stakeholder consultation, including with the recreational fishing community”.
More information about the Coral Sea conservation plan can be found at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/coral-sea. Fisho will provide up-to-date opinions and news on this contentious issue as soon as new material comes to hand.