The heavy tackle Cairns Black Marlin fishery is in severe danger of collapsing after the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) announced the re zoning of the Marine Park via the RAP. This is not scare mongering, but fact.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been divided into 70 separate areas of bio- diversity called bio-regions. Each and every one of these bio-regions have something different, sea grass flats, sponges etc that GBRMPA wish to protect. To do this, the marine park is to be rezoned, with the entire marine park to have 25% green zones. green zones are non-extractive zones, ie. No fishing, either commercial or recreational, no collecting of any kind. Boating, snorkeling, scuba diving and other tourist activities will be allowed. Currently the marine park has 4.5% green zones most of which are in the Far Northern section of the marine park. GBRMPA are calling for a minimum of 20% of each and every bio-region to be made green, and this coupled with existing green zones will add up to 25% of the entire marine park.

The Northern section of bio-region X5, the Southern section of bio-region NL1, all of bio-regions NR and X2 are the critical operating areas for charter operators and recreational game fishing persons during the one hundred and twenty day annual Cairns Black Marlin fishing season from September to December. Unhindered access to the bio-regions described here are vitally important, so that game fishing charters which include trolling for migratory pelagic species, anchoring of vessels and the safety of persons at sea, snorkeling, historical bait gathering and other light tackle game fishing activities can be carried out. Any changes whatsoever to the zoning in these regions will mean that this industry will not be able to operate. Because of the migratory patterns of the Black Marlin (makaira indicus), there is no alternate area that our members can operate in.

The game fishing fleet are the sole users of bio-regions NR and X2, and except for the occasional vessel transiting these areas, no other user group can claim to be a stake holder

When asked what was in these two offshore areas that required protecting, Jon Day, the manager of the RAP said and I quote, " we do not know what needs to be protected but we will take the precautionary approach and protect it anyway". This is science, and is accepted as such! We are talking approximately 160 Sq. nm of each bio-region becoming green.

Currently green reefs have a buffer zone around them so that you can troll for pelagic species, and as such, current green zones do not affect us greatly. This has created an enforcement problem for GBRMPA as boundaries were not very clear. This will more than likely change with the re-zoning and the reefs will become all green and in a block form with straight lines joining corners marked with GPS way points.
This will effectively prevent any trolling for bait, or GT fishing etc. around, and behind any green reef. Another concern is that split zoned reefs (half green and half blue) will possibly also go. GBRMPA’s policy, is not to reduce the current level of green zones in any region so reefs like Opal, Hastings, #7 Ribbon and Moore reefs may go all green.

green zones will more than likely take the form of cross region sections so that possibly from the top of Carter Reef to the bottom of #10 Ribbon reef, from the 200 meter line and out 6nm may become green. The green zone may otherwise be from Fin Reef down to Outer Shoal, or from the Agincourts to Spur Reef. We have no way of knowing until the next phase of the draft zoning plan comes into effect maybe around the middle of 2003.

Boating, snorkeling, scuba diving and large tourist pontoons etc will be allowed ‘carte blanch’ access with new moorings and other infra structure (pontoons etc) being allowed into the future. Fishing will never be allowed though. This is discriminatory bio-diversity at its best.

Game fishers, because of long standing industry, ‘Codes of Practice’, the ethics of fishing to standards set by the International Game Fishing Association, the Game Fishing Association of Australia and the Queensland Game Fishing Association, and our commitment to tag and release fishing have shown that game fishing has negligible or no impact on the bio-diversity of the marine park. No scientific evidence exists that shows that game fishing has any effect on fish stocks, quite the contrary in fact. Through the tag and release program, sonic tagging and other research undertaken, the knowledge that has been obtained has been beneficial to the fish stocks by better understanding of the species and their migratory patterns. Through responsible management and research, a new scientific tag has been developed which will further enhance the information available on the stocks of game fish. Modern technology, equipment and fishing techniques have ensured that all fish are released in excellent condition. These programs and fishing methods have resulted in the past seasons being the best for twenty years.

Not only does the charter game fishing industry provide a much valued Eco tourist experience for anglers travelling from all over Australia and the world but the economic value to the regions economy cannot be understated. The Coopers & Lybrand study, completed in 1996 indicated that the game fishing industry was worth at that time, forty million dollars to the Cairns economy alone. With the accepted 52% increase for the year 2000-2001 this industry is currently worth in excess of sixty million dollars. The importance of game fishing to families and the community as a whole cannot be understated. If we include the recreational angler and their worth to accommodation houses, service stations, tackle shops, supermarkets and other small business and the jobs they in turn create, then we have a value to communities right down the East coast that would be worth well over one hundred million dollars.

Green zones are more about easy enforcement than about protection. Green zones will not protect any other part of the bio-diversity of the ecosystem other than that, which is removed or destroyed by extractive methods. It is not addressing pollution problems, soil run off or loss of habitat. There are much better management tools available than to deny access to a group of users that have proven beyond doubt that they do no damage to the bio-diversity of the area.

We urgently require your assistance, to ensure that we will all continue to have un-restricted access to bio-regions NL1, X5, X2 and NR. You can support our fight by sending a letter, preferably on a company letterhead voicing your disapproval of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authorities proposal to increase the level of green zones in these vitally important bio regions. The economic support that you have given to the region over the years, by chartering local boats is also of great importance, and cannot be disregarded.

Please address the letter to the Minister as per below;

The Federal Minister of the Environment
The Hon. Dr. David Kemp MP
Parliament House, Canberra
ACT. 2600 Australia

Please forward the letter to this association as per below;

Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association Inc.
P.O. Box 5722
Cairns, 4870
Queensland. Australia.

We will collect all the letters and forward them to the Minister at the appropriate time. The Alliance of Charter Vessel Associations, The Game Fishing Association of Australia, and The Queensland Game Fishing Association along with all member clubs are working together in this battle. Once again, thank you for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Laurie A Wright

President: Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association Inc.