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Reef Report for Thursday, August 12, 2004

Perfect Dive Conditions, White Whales, Zoning, and Farmers on the Reef;
This week’s news is truly an assortment!

This week has been an exceptional week for divers, with near perfect conditons. Cairns Dive Centre's boat, the Kangaroo Explorer, reported 40 metres visibility at Moore Reef, with small groups of Humpback Whales approaching to within 2 metres of their dive boats. © Great Barrier Reef Images Dense clouds of reef fish and sightings abounded, as you would expect with such crystal clear water.

Cairns is a very ocean-oriented town, where else would the front page story in the local paper, with a full page color photograph, be the story of the return of the rare albino Humpback Whale named Migaloo to the area’s waters! The whale is truly remarkable and while boats may not approach him, on his first day off Cairns Migaloo chose to approach Down Under Dive’s boat the Osprey close enough to get passengers wet with spray when he exhaled. You can read more about the story of Migaloo in our Reef News for July 7.

New Coastal Zone Plan Intends to Protect the Reef

The environmental news of the week is the state of Queensland announcing it’s proposal for regulation of fishing in what it calls "complimentary zones"; those waters adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that are under the state’s jurisdiction. © Wet Image This includes both beaches and offshore areas.

What the state proposes is combining all the state marine parks into a single Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park, and setting up regulations that dovetail with those of the National Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, to support the scientific rational for creating protected zones, and to make things simpler for recreational and commercial fisherman by having a single set of regulations that apply to all the ocean waters in and around the Great Barrier Reef.

There is controversy over the regulations. If passed in it’s present form, the proposal would close significant amounts of coastline to fishing, up to 20% of the coast by some estimates. Groups with a financial stake in the closure of fishing areas are understandably concerned.

Recreation fishing is a very popular pastime in Queensland, and the impact of Queensland’s growing human population has no doubt had some effect on the fish populations. We are amazed that a kid in Cairns can still go and drop a handline off the marina, and have a chance of catching what would be an enormous fish by the standards of any other part of the world. We worry that kids in future generations not having that opportunity unless some careful thinking and intelligent action is taken on the impact of the current extremely open fishing regulations. A decline in the quality of fishing, something witnessed in other parts of the world, would no doubt have a serious impact on the fishing industry here also, so we advocate a long term, sustainable approach to the issue.

Learn More:

Outline of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Proposal.

The actual Great Barrier Reef Marine Coast Marin Park Proposal.

Farmers are Friends of the Reef

Lastly, there has been some good news lately, with the federal government announcing a cash incentive program for farmers acting to reduce sediment and nutrient erosion off their farms. This is clearly a win-win program, as farmers maintain soil fertility and reduce their impact on the reef at the same time. We have been very impressed by the number of farmers here that are land stewards, and recognize the connection between the practices on their farms, and how that can either help or harm the surrounding environment. We hope these incentives encourage even more farmers to practice improved land stewardship.

Learn more:

Some short case studies of good land practices.

(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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