The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia) have renewed their call for reforms to Queensland’s fishing rules to save endangered marine species and help protect fragile coral reefs following the release of a critical position statement from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).
Threats highlighted in the GBRMPA statement on fishing include the alarming accidental catch and death of endangered wildlife from archaic practices such as gillnetting, overfishing, illegal fishing and damage to fragile ocean habitats from trawling.
Independent monitoring of fishing activities, setting sustainable catch limits and better stewardship of our Reef by fishers are just some of the solutions put forward in the GBRMPA statement that are supported by the AMCS and WWF-Australia.
AMCS fisheries and threatened species spokesperson Tooni Mahto said these issues must be urgently addressed through Queensland’s overdue fisheries reform process, particularly as the Reef has just suffered its third mass bleaching event in five years.
“We’re stewards of a globally significant World Heritage site that is loved the world over. It is shameful and embarrassing that we’re subjecting our Reef to such damaging fishing, particularly when it’s under such intense pressure from marine heat waves driven by global warming,” Ms Mahto said.
“It needs to change, for the good of the thousands of marine creatures that live in our Great Barrier Reef, for the good of our Reef tourism industry and for the good of the fishing industry.
“Species of shark, dugongs, turtles and dolphins are being pushed to the brink by fishing practices which are unacceptable for any parts of our ocean, let alone a World Heritage site.
“For example, species like the scalloped hammerheads are key components of the food chain that help with the resilience of our complex Reef system. If they are driven to extinction, the domino effect on other species could be catastrophic,” Ms Mahto added.
Simon Miller, Project Manager Sustainable Fisheries from WWF-Australia said: “The Queensland Government fisheries reforms are needed to address some particularly threatening fishing processes that are impacting the delicate health of our Reef and the precious marine creatures that call it home.
“A key issue on the Reef are gill nets which are indiscriminate killers that have no place in the pristine waters of the northern Great Barrier Reef. It’s time to remove this outdated and unsustainable fishing practice from areas that are important refuges for dugongs and other marine wildlife.
“We’d like to see the Queensland Government establish a Net-Free North through a ban on gill nets between Cooktown and the Torres Strait to protect one of the last global strongholds for dugongs.”
Implementation of the Queensland Government’s flagship Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27, that would go some way to reducing the risk of fishing in the Reef, ground to a halt in 2019, with the government failing on its election commitments to improve the management of all fishing in Queensland.
The AMCS and WWF-Australia are calling on the Queensland Government to immediately pass the regulations required to deliver the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.