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Reef Report for Thursday, July 1, 2004

Expanded Great Barrier Reef Protection Begins

New regulations on fishing on the Great Barrier Reef went into effect today, greatly expanding the amount of protected areas, and upsetting the commercial fishing industry.

One of the goals of the protective scheme is to protect the unique ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises To that end the amount of completely protected "green zones" have expanded to include over 30% of the Great Barrier Reef, a six-fold increase.

Included in this scheme, which has been developed over the past two years, are new regulations on commercial fishing, including an overall cap on the catch, new size and catch limits, a new method of collecting and analyzing catch data, and complete protection for a group of 8 species of fish. It is forecast that the system of reserves and regulations will not just protect fish populations, but enhance them, with the growing fish populations spilling over from green zones into other parts of the reef.

While the intent of these new rules is to assure a long-term, sustainable harvest of fish by the commercial industry, the new regulations have not proven popular with the industry. A group of commercial fishing vessels staged a peaceful protest today outside the Cairns. The fishermen are concerned about their jobs, as well as those of processors and wholesalers whose livelihood also depends on the catch. Some prime fishing grounds are now protected, and catch limits will cap their earnings.

In the past two years, the number of commercial licenses has shrunk from 1700 to 400. Catch quotas are being assigned with an eye towards supporting those that have a history in the industry. The Australian government has been accused by the commercial fishing industry of being unclear about economic support for fisherman that are effected by the new rules, and it was interesting that two new support schemes have been announced on the heels of the fisherman protests.

Time will tell if the GBRMPA’s scientific homework is of "A+" quality, and that the Great Barrier Reef is protected, and that a sustainable fishing industry grows out of these new regulations. Let’s hope that there is room for an amazing Great Barrier Reef, outstanding opportunities to dive, and the opportunity to have a sustainable fishing industry.

Learn More:

About the New Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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