Outlook Uncertain
  |  First Published: March 2011

Cyclone Yasi has kept us on our toes in the last week. Thankfully the system spared Cape York but as everyone will know by now, it gave Mission Beach, Tully and Cardwell an absolute battering.

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand some of the detrimental effects recent events will have on the Great Barrier Reef. Huge sediment plumes over the southern half of the reef will have compounded with further flooding while the utter force and magnitude of Cyclone Yasi may have destroyed sensitive shallow reef areas from Cairns down to Airlie Beach.

This is terrible news for our Great Barrier Reef, which already has many hardships to deal with in recent years. It is also a timely reminder of why zoning and protected areas were created in the first place: to give areas under stress some relief.

I sincerely hope that green and yellow zones will have their bureaucratic tape shifted to allow damaged reef time to recover. This is easier said then done when political motivation for a certain amount of green zones led the original decisions in the first place.

We also need to consider the impacts of flooding and cyclones on the more northerly reefs of Queensland’s east coast. When considering fish migration patterns, we could expect some serious fall-out in the annual migrations of predatory fish riding the warmer currents north over coming months. It is safe to say water temperatures may remain warmer in the south with heat trapped in the water column and generally warmer sea-surface temperatures across the state.

Without trying to overstate something I know little about, we might expect changes in the runs on iconic northern species such as the various marlin, sailfish, mackerel and tuna. These fish cover huge distances and seem to have an uncanny ability to show up back in old feeding grounds about the same time each year. But changes in water temperatures, wet season duration, the abundance of bait and extreme weather events all have the potential to tilt the axis of predictability.

A challenge for anglers is working out these riddles year in and out. It is what makes the whole thing fishing rather than catching. Fish are hugely adaptable critters and not many have a true sense of home. Their behaviour is dependent on very different criteria to our own and it is hard to understand exactly what the driving forces are. But anglers are a speculative bunch and we make it our business to figure out the clues that help us catch fish.

Fishing has become a challenging pastime over recent years. And these challenges are only set to continue with increased competition for our ever-dwindling resources. Environmental challenges can exacerbate the hardship for fish and anglers alike. As recreational fishers, we will need a united front to stay in the mix of fisheries management. Not to be swayed as to the true nature of fishing and the care that this brings.

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