Fight More Green Zone Closures
  |  First Published: January 2010

There was a fine article in QFM last month (p62) by Garry Smith of Cairns dealing with the major issues of the Coral Sea and probable closures to fishing. But the reality is the Coral Sea is not just a North Queensland problem – all Queensland east coast offshore anglers fish in the Coral Sea!

If anglers and fishing businesses don’t get involved NOW, there WILL be wholesale closures to fishing in southeast Queensland of at least of the magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) disaster.

The Eastern Bioregional Planning Process has descended into farce. It is extremely important there is a coordinated voice from the entire fishing sector against the way Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts and his department (DEWHA) are handling this process.

DEWHA Short Falls

DEWHA has failed to comply with dates to issue the Areas for Further Assessment (AFFA, which are in other words new Green Zones). The original issue date was supposed to be September 2009, then November 2009, now when?

DEWHA has also failed to engage with industry on the Displaced Effort Policy (Compensation for Marine businesses that will be destroyed by these new Green Zones). They have failed to meet time lines for the Displaced Effort Policy, or to refer the ‘expert review’ of the Displaced Effort Policy to stakeholders. There were no stakeholders even on the ‘expert review’, so how did the ‘experts’ become ‘experts’ in the eyes of Garrett, DEWHA, and the government?

The government has failed to base Eastern Bioregional Planning Process locally in Queensland or even on the eastern seaboard. Headquarters for the review is Hobart, Tasmania. DEWHA has only one person representing the whole eastern seaboard Martin Russell, and there is a relief person when Russell is unavailable.

The department has failed to consult with stakeholders at any stage of any process. The one-sided declaration of the Coral Sea as a Conservation Zone and the one-sided declaration of the mako shark as a migratory species is evidence of this.

DEWHA has failed to reply in a timely manner (or in any manner) to requests for information from my local member, Yvette D'Ath Member for Petrie, at a meeting attended by Charlton Clark, a DEWHA suit from Tasmania and Martin Russell with Redcliffe stakeholders including myself, Cunningham’s Marine, At Sea Trimming and Reel Easy Charters back on September 25. What a slap in the face to Mrs D’Ath and the consultation process by Clark and Russell.

Finally DEWHA has failed to comply with any published time lines to date, indicating there may be no intention from the government to actually consult with stakeholders.

We are concerned there are predetermined outcomes and the government are simply counting down the clock to an unhappy end for anglers to ensure Green preferences at an upcoming election. This is not an issue for only the recreational sector or only the professional sector, this is an issue upon which we must all stand together.

The enemy here is rampant Green idealism, which is supported by a major political party seeking preferences at the next election. Not a good combination for a balanced outcome for fishing and anglers, whether they are either rec or pro.

There WILL be public meetings in South East Queensland to raise awareness among anglers and voters of this flawed process so we can attempt to save our livelihoods and recreations. We all need to stand together to save our livelihoods and one of our most treasured pastimes.

Myths and Facts

The following are some common myths about the Eastern Bioregional Planning Process and facts dispelling these blaze ‘it won’t affect me’ beliefs.

MYTH: Bioregional planning is in Commonwealth waters only. It won’t affect me.

FACT: If you fish offshore in waters 30m deep or over you are probably in Commonwealth waters. Many recreational craft routinely travel 5Nm on fishing trips and the 30m depth contour is usually only about 3Nm from shore.

Myth: The government and Department of Environment wouldn’t be game to close huge areas in South East Queensland to fishing.

FACT: The government has already made closures of 30% in GBRMP and 17% closures through the Montego Bay Marine Park. Nearly 40% of South Australian waters are slated for exclusion zones. The department is currently reviewing a proposal to close nearly 1,000km2 in the Coral Sea.

MYTH: The government and Department of Environment will minimise economic and social impacts.

FACT: Only three stakeholder meetings have been held so far, one each in Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. These meetings were only held to identify ‘conservation values’. Stakeholders were instructed not to discuss economic or social impacts of Marina Parks. Is this listening?

MYTH: The Department of Environment has good local knowledge on which to base their decisions.

FACT: The DEWHA team conducting the Eastern Bioregional Planning Process is based in Hobart, Tasmania. Not too local is it? In addition, the plan was based on material published by the department that contained incorrect information.

MYTH: I’ll get my say when the AFFAs (Areas for further Assessment) are released.

FACT: The AFFAs were supposed to be released in September 2009, then November 2009 and have still not been released to the public as of early January 2010.

The formal consultation period still does not begin until after the release of the draft plan in mid to late 2010.

MYTH: If my fishing areas aren’t in Green Zones I won’t be affected.

FACT: All the recreational and professional fishers who have lost their grounds have to go somewhere. Your fishing patch will get overcrowded from this ‘displaced effort’. Just look at the overcrowding of Cape Moreton reefs since the Moreton Bay Marine Park closures of the Shallow Tempest, Hendersons, Flat Rock and other shallow reefs.

MYTH: Professional fishers and other affected businesses will be compensated financially and won’t have to worry.

FACT: The federal government is currently reviewing its Displaced Activities policy and was supposed to have completed the process by September 2009. This process is still ongoing, but with minimal stakeholder involvement. Current indications are the government is looking for legal loopholes to avoid having to pay compensation.

MYTH: There will be plenty of time to talk about this.

FACT: The Eastern Bioregional Planning Process was meant to finish in June 2010 but has been extended by six months. So there is not much time at all to have your say, particularly as many decisions have already been made.

MYTH: The Eastern Bioregional Planning Process will protect fisheries into the future.

FACT: The Bioregional planning process is not about fisheries management, it is about ‘protecting biodiversity’. Tony Burke, the Federal Minister for Fisheries has not even been participating in the process.

MYTH: But at least Green Zones are fully protecting some fish stocks.

FACT: The biggest scientifically proven threat to fish stocks comes from pollutants from the mainland. The most significant threats to the waters we all enjoy are being ignored. Green Zones are simply no fishing zones for political expediency – not environmental protection.

MYTH: There will be local and regional management plans established for waters where I fish.

FACT: All waters will be managed centrally from either Canberra or Hobart. – Keith Hall

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