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PEW falsely claims victory in battle for Coral Sea

IN a bizarre twist in the ongoing battle over angling access to a world famous sportfishery, the American Pew organisation has publicly announced that a massive no-fishing zone covering the entire Coral Sea has been given the green light by the federal Government and will be announced by early next year.

But the Pew claim doesn’t seem to have any political support. It has been firmly rejected by Environment Minister Tony Burke and strongly criticised by the federal Opposition.
Mr Burke responded to Fishing World’s questions about the Pew statement by indicating that any marine park in the Coral Sea would be based on a multi-use format, similar to that already announced for the south-western region of WA. Minister Burke’s comments support those made earlier in the year by Fisheries spokesman Dr Mike Kelly, who told Fisho during an interview there was no reason to close the Coral Sea to well managed recreational fishing.

In a further blow for the US funded organisation, Pew’s claim that it had succeeded in achieving the imminent closure of about 1 million sq km of ocean off the Queensland coast has been labelled as “presumptuous” by Opposition fisheries minister Senator Richard Colbeck.

According to information obtained by Fisho, Pew staffer Beth Hill told a public meeting at Sydney’s University of Technology on May 26 that the Coral Sea no-fishing zone was a “fait accompli” and would be announced by the Government early next year.
A member of the public who was one of four people who attended the Pew meeting contacted Fishing World and released to us extensive notes about Pew’s Coral Sea plans. The notes are transcripts taken down during Ms Hill’s talk and are available for viewing HERE.

According to the anonymous source, Pew regarded public consultation about the closure of the Coral Sea to fishing as a “formality”. The Government would announce the closure following the 2012 federal Budget, Ms Hill allegedly told the meeting.

According to our source, Ms Hill said she had seen photographs of anglers fishing in the Coral Sea and described them as “horrific” while stating that Australia’s recreational anglers were not interested in the Coral Sea issue.

Mr Burke told Fisho that the Government favoured multi-use marine parks in federal waters and indicated that he would implement the “balanced” approach to marine protected areas as detailed to Fisho in 2010 by former environment minister Peter Garrett. See HERE for details of an interview Fisho conducted with Mr Garrett. 

“We are working our way through the Commonwealth waters,” Mr Burke told Fisho. “On each occasion some people want to allow fishing, trawling and drilling everywhere. Other people want to lock everything up. 

“The best example I can give of my approach is for people to have a look at how I have dealt with the south-west in the draft maps that have been released for consultation. This process will deliver environmental outcomes. It will respect the needs of local economies. And it will always take into account the many Australians who love to fish.”

The draft plan for the south-west bioregion has been largely welcomed by anglers. It creates the world’s biggest marine park yet has minimal impact on angling activities. Green groups, however, are calling for further restrictions on fishing in the draft plan. WA angling groups have created a website – rla.net.au – which allows anglers to alert federal and state politicians to their opposition to unnecessary restrictions to fishing in offshore waters.

As well as calling the Coral Sea announcement “presumptuous”, the Opposition’s Senator Colbeck attacked Pew and other anti-fishing groups for “mounting vilification campaigns against  … responsible rec fishos”.

“There’s no doubt the Coral Sea has biologically and historically significant features, but the Coalition does not support campaigns to declare the entire Coral Sea a marine park and to ban fishing activity in these waters,” Senator Colbeck told Fisho.

The senator said the national marine bioregional plan has several consultation periods to gain input from all stakeholders, which includes commercial and recreational fishing groups, and coastal communities and businesses that survive on fishing-related trade.
“The Government should ignore these important voices at its peril,” Senator Colbeck said.

Fisho contacted Pew’s Australian based Coral Sea campaign director Imogen Zethoven for her comments about the Coral Sea issue but received no response.

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