Coral Sea draft plan release imminent

Coral se conservation zone. http://www.environment.gov.au/.../fs-coral-sea.html
The wait is nearly over for the marine and fishing industries, with the imminent release of the much anticipated draft Coral Sea bioregional plan – already heralded as 'the world’s largest marine park'.

The draft proposal for the tropical waters between the Great Barrier Reef and the edge of Australian territory will place about half the total region in 'no take' reserves, stopping fishing. The rest of the Coral Sea will be made multi-use, single-use and wilderness conservation areas allowing recreational fishing, some commercial fishing, or both, to differing degrees.

The draft proposal is still being finalised before its release in coming weeks, but falls short of a campaign by conservationists for the entire Coral Sea to be declared a 'no-take' reserve due to its largely unspoilt environment and military significance.

Those involved in the consultation process have been asked not to speak about the plan until its release, the Queensland Environment Minister has already backed the 'one million hectare marine park' as enhancing Queensland and Australia's reputation for marine conservation.

But for fishermen like Bob Lamison who pioneered the longline tuna fishery in the Coral Sea some 20 years ago - it signals the end.

Mr Lamison and others with vested intersts in the region are still waiting for the release of the detailed maps associated with the proposed marine protected areas, but he says the draft plan confirms his worst fears.

'The sneak preview is that we will probably be wiped out,' he says. 'We'd have to exit, there's no two ways about it because financially, you wouldn't be able to survive.'

'It's a bit like them taking water from the farmers in the Murray-Darling. You've got a block of land but without water, it's useless. We've got a (statutory) fishing right but without water, it's useless.'

The office of Environment Minister, Tony Burke, confirmed the release of the Coral Sea draft bioregional plan will be followed by three months of community consultation.