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The Billfish Foundation weighs into Coral Sea debate

THE Billfish Foundation (TBF), an internationally respected US-based organisation which promotes marine “conservation through research, education and advocacy”, has weighed into the furore over the future of the Coral Sea, warning that “extreme environmental organizations” are seeking to close down a world famous sportfishery off the Queensland coast.

Australian recreational fishing leaders have welcomed the move, saying it was vital to have international fishing organizations of the TBF’s stature involved in the Coral Sea issue.

“It’s great to see The Billfish Foundation enter the debate,” said Australian Fishing Trade Association CEO Allan Hansard. “The TBF has vast international experience in advocating responsible and sustainable marine conservation and the comments and suggestions put forward here will be of great interest and value to the Government.

“Australia’s five million anglers hope that our political leaders will listen to the voice of reason coming from groups such as the TBF. There’s a lot of common sense in what this organization has to say (about the Coral Sea issue) and I think once people think about the issue and read what the TBF has to say they’ll understand there’s more to marine conservation than just locking areas up.”

TBF president Ellen Peel has sent an email to the organization’s international database of anglers, gameboat captains, scientists and politicians warning of serious socio-economic impacts if “enviros get their way” by lobbying the Australian Government to close off angling access in the Coral Sea.

“As you likely have heard extreme environmental organizations, including one from the US, are tenaciously pushing for a closed zone/marine reserve in waters of the Coral Sea just east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” Peel said in her email. “ We all have heard of the famous and exceptional fishing in the Marine Park, great fishing that continues today.  But if the enviros get their way, waters will be closed to sportfishing, even though many jobs are dependent upon the sportfishing and boating eco-tourism industry in the region. Yes, this could really happen and the enviros are determined it will happen.“

Peel and her colleagues at TBF have prepared a detailed statement about the Coral Sea issue (see HERE). The organization has urged the international gamefishing community to make submissions to the Australian Government about the Coral Sea issue.

“It takes a little time and attention (to make a submission), but please follow through,” Peel said. “The environmental (groups) are betting that you do not. The proposed marine reserve will not accomplish anything for highly migratory billfish and tunas, but it will cause negative repercussions to Australia’s sportfishing and boating eco-tourism industry and take away fishing access. Please share this with all anglers, captains and mates you know and stress the importance of each sending in comments.”

The TBF said the Coral Sea closures being put forward by the American anti-fishing group Pew “sets a bad precedent for sportfishing for highly migratory species”.

In her statement, Peel said the proposed Coral Sea closures would do nothing to end industrial exploitation of gamefish stocks in the central and western Pacific.

“If the proposed closed zone prohibiting sportfishing were enacted … it would not reflect responsible management, but rather a radical broad brush prohibition driven by groups that desire a protectionist approach, not a responsible user or responsible management approach,” Peel said.

“The cumulative effect of the proposed closed zone would be economic undervaluation of fisheries resources, eroding justification for their conservation.”

TBF warned that the anti-fishing push in Australian waters would have international repercussions. “If the enviros can accomplish this in the famously historic waters off Australia’s east coast they will push such measures anywhere,” Peel said. “Our sportfishing and boating friends in Australia need our help NOW. Pass it on!”

The cut-off date for public comments on the proposed Coral Sea marine park is February 24. The TBF has advised that its comments about this issue are freely available for anglers to copy and paste onto the Government’s public comment site, available via this link:
http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/coralsea/consultation/submission-form-coralsea.html

Fisho understands that the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) has also entered the Coral Sea debate and has sent federal Environment Minister Tony Burke a letter outlining the importance of this area to sport and game fishing.

Fisho will publish details of the IGFA letter as soon as possible.

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