OPINION: No Compromise

If you’ve ever debated spiritual issues with a bible basher you’ll realise you just can’t win, no matter how logical or reasoned you think your arguments are. Religious fundamentalists usually won’t accept any view other than their own. It’s much the same with hardline environmentalists.

The Pew Environment Group’s campaign on “saving” the Coral Sea is a good case in point when discussing the no-compromise fundamentalism espoused by some environment groups. The Coral Sea, a vast area of open ocean and coral reef east of North Queensland, is remote and relatively pristine. Pew wants to keep it that way by making it a no-take marine park. There are other management strategies that could be employed to achieve much the same objectives but Pew is 100 per cent committed to closing the entire area to all fishing. No ifs, no buts.

This is difficult to swallow from a rec fishing perspective. The Coral Sea appeals to anglers because of its remoteness and the fact that it boasts some damn good fishing. There’s no evidence to indicate that recreational fishing is having any sort of adverse impact on the Coral Sea’s biodiversity or pristine environment. Nor that it couldn’t be effectively managed as a sport fishing and environmental haven into the foreseeable future. But you’re talking to a brick wall when you discuss Coral Sea management options like that with Pew.

Fishing World this week interviewed Pew’s Australian-based director, Imogen Zethoven (see news article HERE), and her steadfast commitment to Pew’s “no fishing” policy was an admirable, albeit somewhat confronting, example of hardline environmental advocacy. We quickly discovered that you can’t expect a multilayered discourse with someone like Zethoven as she seems to have no interest whatsoever in perspectives or opinions that differ from her own.

Over the past year Pew’s campaigners, including Zethoven, have undertaken an impressive publicity campaign extolling the Coral Sea’s environmental and historical credentials, using glossy brochures, evocative images and some slick marketing strategies. And Pew’s seemingly limitless resources and lobbying budgets will no doubt mean that Australia’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, will be at the receiving end of serious pressure from this influential US-funded organisation in the lead-up to the next election.
All this is well and good. You can’t fault Pew for putting its money where its mouth is in trying to achieve its stated goals. And those goals do have wide appeal. Who doesn’t want to protect the environment, especially an amazing place like the Coral Sea? Most, if not all, anglers, for instance, would fully support the cessation of industrial fishing in an area such as the Coral Sea. It’s obvious that long lining and trawling cause huge damage to marine environments. But it’s difficult to see how Pew can, in all fairness, lump recreational fishing in with this sort of large scale marine extraction. It’s not justifiable. It’s certainly not appropriate. It’s not particularly clever from a public relations perspective.

But Pew isn’t worried about that. It knows it is right.

And that, in our opinion, is wrong.

Jim Harnwell is the Publisher of Yaffa Marine Group. An edited transcript of Fishing World’s interview with Pew’s Imogen Zethoven will be available for download soon.





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