Pew loses battle for the Coral Sea

Pew’s no compromise gamble on creating the world’s biggest no-take marine park in the Coral Sea has failed with federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett yesterday rejecting the US-based lobby group’s controversial anti-fishing campaign.

As predicted by Fishing World, Garrett has opted for a balanced approach to managing the unique environmental attributes of the Coral Sea, stating categorically that well-managed recreational fishing will continue.

“I want to make plain to everyone, that while my Department will continue to assess the whole of the Coral Sea, there is no plan to establish it as one large ‘no take’ marine park.,” Garrett said in Cairns yesterday.

“As with other marine areas around the country, I expect that this process will lead to a balanced mix of both multiple use areas and no-take areas within the marine reserve network in which we work with stakeholders to secure a good conservation outcome while minimising social and economic impacts.”

In an exclusive interview with Garrett in Canberra earlier this year, Fishing World predicted it would be unlikely that fishing would be banned in the Coral Sea.

A February 11 article on revealed Garrett was aiming for a “balance point” on any management plans for the Coral Sea.

The fact that well-managed recreational fishing will continue to be allowed in the Coral Sea is a major blow for the anti-fishing lobbyists who had spent millions of dollars trying to force the federal Government to prevent Australians from experiencing the world-class sportfishing available in this area.

The Australian arm of the Pew Environment Trust, headed by veteran green campaigner Imogen Zethoven, had led a coalition of anti-fishing groups calling for a complete ban on all fishing in the Coral Sea. The contentious Pew campaign used TV ads featuring a talking fish and glossy brochures in an attempt to elicit public support for its move to ban fishing.

In an interview with Fisho in September last year, Zethoven said Pew was steadfast in its push for the Coral Sea to be 100 per cent closed to all fishing activities. Pew campaigners would not be satisfied with a compromise protection deal which included fishing, Zethoven said.

Garrett’s statements on the Coral Sea are a slap in the face for Pew, which had gambled on its millions of US oil money and slick marketing campaigns providing it with political clout and influence. The Garrett decision also brings into serious question Zethoven’s controversial campaign strategies, revealing that her team had completely failed in its stated mission plan to influence public and political sentiment towards the banning of fishing in the Coral Sea.

See the transcript of the Fishing World interview with Pew’s Imogen Zethoven HERE and Garrett interview HERE.

Fishing World yesterday contacted Zethoven for comments on the Coral Sea but received no response.

While Pew has failed in its campaign to make the Coral Sea a complete no-go zone, Garrett said the area would be further assessed by the Environment Department with the view of determining possible management plans that could include no-fishing zones. The Coral Sea already has an extensive network of areas that are closed to fishing. Fishing pundits yesterday said it could be possible that new management regulations could see some or all of these areas reopened to fishing.

Garrett also announced yesterday plans for the East Marine region assessment, which will likely see the development of a network of “multiple use” and “no-take” marine reserves in Commonwealth waters. The areas to be further assessed covers 2.4 million square kilometres from the Torres Strait to southern NSW, and as far east as Norfolk Island.

“Today’s identification of Areas for Further Assessment kicks off a new round of scientific assessment and consultation that will help ensure that any future decisions about protecting our marine environment are made taking into account the need to minimise the impacts on industry,” Garrett said.

“This ongoing consultation program is critical to ensure that we gain a comprehensive understanding about the areas that are important to both industry and to recreational fishers, as well as being environmentally significant so that we can ensure we get the balance right in our future planning.

Seven areas, plus the Coral Sea Conservation Zone, have been identified for further assessment. The seven areas are the Fraser, Tweed, Clarence, Hunter, Batemans, Tasmania-Lord Howe and Norfolk.

“These areas for further assessment are simply areas where more detailed information will be collected. Importantly, they do not have any regulatory impact on industries, recreational fishers, boating enthusiasts, tourism operators and other users,” Garrett said.

RecFish Australia CEO Len Olyott yesterday welcomed Garrett’s Coral Sea announcement.

“This is a positive step by the Government and suggests that there is a real intention to engage with industry and all users of the environment, including recreational fishers,” said Olyott. “This announcement clearly says that the Government will not allow policy to be dictated by special interest groups with their own agendas.”

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