Save the Coral Sea
In 2010 then Minister Peter Garrett buckled under significant pressure from a USA based environmental group and proceeded to declare the 1 million sq kilometre Coral Sea a no-take conservation zone.
Industry was given only 2 hours notice on what is one of the largest marine policy decisions since federation.
The decision by Minister Tony Burke raised a myriad of concerns that need to be explored.
AMA Places Minister Burke and Department on Notice
Industry has frankly had enough. Consultation for the sake of consultation is unacceptable and plagues the entire Marine Bio-regional Planning Process (MBPP). Closing the Coral Sea raised many serious questions including the lack of policy and committment to Australia's food security concerns. Minister Burke may well have wanted to close the Coral Sea to appease environmentalists, but he had no solution to Australia's food security concerns. We also object to so called Special Purpose Zones (SPZ's) in return for large scale closures. SPZ's essentially mean recreational anglers can only fish in certain areas and must consume their catch before coming back to shore. This is not an effective approach to managing the marine environment.
Click on the PDF symbol to read the AMA's submissions to the Coral Sea Marine Reserve Proposal.
Gillard, Burke and Garrett
As noted in 2010 the then Minister Peter Garrett declared that the Coral Sea was about to be closed.
At the time Minister Tony Burke was the Federal Minister for Fisheries and no doubt would of signed off on the decision via the cabinet process.
Foreign Policy Issues
The closure of almost 1million square kilometres of ocean poses serious and genuine foreign policy concerns by questioning Australia's obligation as a middle power throughout the region. How can Australia close the Coral Sea to commercial and recreational anglers and expect a range of other countries - who rely on the Coral Sea for food - to do the same? To be frank it's arrogant and a ridiculous proposal that is not supported by science. Moreover, the Federal Department of Environment's own assessment advocating the closure of the Coral Sea has been independently discredited on scientific grounds.
PNG Smashed by foreign fisherman in their EEZ as Australia shuts down Coral Sea
A major concern with Australia shutting down the Coral Sea from any extractive effort is of course our ability to exploit the resource sustainably for our own food security purposes. A secondary concern is the exploitation of the resource by other countries and our inability to shape fisheries management policy in the region. A recent Pacific Island News article points to this very concern. Fisherman are fishing the PNG EEZ and yet PNG benefits little from this. Click here to read the article.
Boat sales statistics in Australia show that recreational anglers are by far buying larger boats with twin outboards. This is primarily to head out past state marine parks into deeper water to do what they love to do - fish. As a result recreational anglers can and are going out to places like the Coral Sea to catch their small quota of fish and with state governments locking up more state based water, where else can they go?
Monitoring, safety and illegal fishing
If access to the Coral Sea is closed then genuine concerns will be raised with regard to the monitoring of illegal fishing and the safety of vessels at sea. As we all know marine safety organisations across Australia are under funded and stretched to the limit. Many marine rescue organisations at the state level are100% voluntary in terms of man power. Recreational and commercial fisherman not only provide a necessary safety role when boats are in distress but a very important monitoring role for authorities with regard to the monitoring of illegal fishing. Take the recreational and the commercials out of the picture and the entire monitoring and safety aspects of the Coral Sea are handled directly by those organisations who are currently well underfunded.
The Federal Government under Peter Garrett - and then Tony Burke - did not consulted industry. Back in 2010 industry found out that an announcement was to be made on closing the Coral Sea via an email sent at 7am - 2 hours before the announcement by the Labour Government at the Sydney Aquarium.
Like almost every decision being made by the Gillard Government regarding the marine environment, the science is poor, discredited and simply does not stack up. As you can see above the PEW Foundation report is heavily reliant upon the Coral Seas military history. Military history though has little to do with good science or the protection of marine bio-diversity! Moreover, if recreational and commercial anglers poses minimal concerns in terms of their impact - as noted by the most experienced international scientists - then why arbitrarily close the Coral Sea? Frankly, it's all about politics, ideology and not about good policy or credible science at all.