Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve
- AMPTO’s position continues to be that we are supportive of a Coral Sea marine reserve that would remove trawl, netting and long line activity and prevent mining and oil exploration.
- We acknowledge that this could create a long term benefit for this area.
- AMPTO is pleased to see a compensation scheme for displaced fishermen.
- However, as the peak marine tourism industry body for the GBR, some of our members utilize the Coral Sea for their business activity.
- The current proposal has highlighted the potential conflicting needs of those members.
- Diving operators want more protection particularly of the sensitive North Western corner of Osprey Reef where one of the world’s best shark dives takes place.
- This dive attracts divers from all over the world to Cairns.
- The overriding need for the dive operators is to protect the sharks that access the region and at least a kilometer around this site needs to be a no fishing zone simply to ensure that the shark population is not impacted by fishermen fishing immediately adjacent to the dive site.
- Our game fishing members have little if any effect on the fish population of the Coral Sea as most of their activity is catch and release/tag, yet they would be severely impacted by the proposed changes.
- Game fishing is what started the Cairns marine tourism industry and it remains a very important draw card for the region. Apart from the North West Corner of Osprey Reef we believe there is no valid reason to restrict the rights of existing permitted game fishermen within the Coral Sea whose primary activity is catch and release/tag.
- We believe these permits should be protected without further expansion of the industry (no new permits to be issues).
- If this is unacceptable AMPTO would strongly recommend re-thinking the proposed protection of all the Northern Reefs with Shark and the bottom end of Osprey being opened up to fishing.
- We believe this is a compromise that would provide fishing access and have no impact on the desired biodiversity outcomes.
- In addition, it is necessary to have a trolling access lane from Cairns to PNG. The game fishermen regularly move from Cairns to PNG and having the right to fish along the way is not only an essential part of the international product they promote and sell it would have no significant impact on the proposed marine reserve.
- AMPTO is aware that our game fishing members are actively and totally opposed to any protection of the Coral Sea that restricts their activities as there is no science or data to justify removing their activity from the Coral Sea region.
Crown Of Thorns
Crown Of Thorns Starfish (COTS)
- AIMS, the GBRMPA and the marine tourism industry all agree that COTS are in active outbreak off Cairns and to the north. This outbreak threatens not just the $multibillion tourism industry but to further denude the live coral from the GBR.
- AIMS attributes nearly 50% of the coral loss on the GBR over the last 20 years to COTS. The only other major cause of coral cover loss is cyclones.
- AMPTO has demonstrated the ability to protect tourism sites on the GBR from COTS if work commences early enough and if enough resources are available. Reef wide population control may not be possible but we can protect the significant tourism sites and radically reduce the number of breeding COTS.
- Industry and the QLD government have been conducting COTS control activities for the last 2.5 years using the QLD Green Army and break the unemployment cycle program. During that time we trained 105 disadvantaged youths as COTS divers and achieved 85% employment outcomes. The best result for any Green Army project in QLD.
- Federal support for COTS control started in 2012 with a $1.4 million grant.
- A 15 person vessel, divers and support costs approximately $2 million per year.
- We currently have two vessels employed but funding is only committed until the end of this financial year.
- AMPTO urges continuation of the existing COTS control efforts for at least the next three years at $4 million per year to provide two fully crew dive boats, tourism site protection, COTS population control and practical on site research.
AMPTO as a group gets noticed, our voice together is louder. Below are our official position statements on areas that potentially affect us all in the Marine Parks Associated Industrys
Funding of the GBRMPA
- The role of the GBRMPA has continued to expand but no additional funding has been allocated to its core funding. In fact, with productivity dividends, core funding has decreased in real terms.
- The field management program is underfunded and needed compliance work cannot be done, moorings cannot be maintained and vessels are worn out.
- Clearly, the GBRMPA and industry know that commercial and recreational fishermen are deliberately fishing in Green Zones.
- When an event like the Shen Neng occurs the GBRMPA has to reduce services to free up the finance to deal with the situation.
- This directly contributes to a loss of management activities, communication and consultation.
GBRMPA Negative Impacts
- Restructured at least once to reduce staff and lowered service levels to our industry.
- Had its budget cut by the productivity dividends
- Lost the revenue it would have been able to generate through investments by the changing of its financial model.
- Instituted a program called Community Engagement costing some extra $1.5 million per year without additional funding.
- Established an Outlook Team to author the Outlook Report with no additional funding.
- Cut the Tourism and Recreational Reef Advisory Committee meetings from 4 to 3 meetings per year. This is an excellent advisory committee and gives the industry an opportunity to comment on proposed work by the GBRMPA.
- Reduced the budget for research.
- Reduced the budget for field management leaving essential tasks such as COTS prediction, public mooring works, compliance investigations, etc, unfunded.
- The partnership between the GBRMPA and the marine tourism industry has been held up as world’s best practice for the last 10 years.
- The only reason tourism has not become the thorn in the side it once was for the government and the GBRMPA, is because of the close personal relationship that the GBRMPA and industry have established but without regular meetings, liaison and communication, that relationship must suffer.
- While the government spends $millions in compensating commercial fishermen for areas lost due to increased protection and again on improvement of water quality, the GBRMPA is being crippled in its ability to perform its duties through lack of finances. Where is the commonsense in this approach?
AMPTO is seeking assurances that the GBRMPA will be appropriately funded and that tourism services, including COTS funding, will be funded to at least maintain the service levels previously enjoyed.
The laws associated with the commercial operation of coastal vessels are undergoing the biggest changes in many years.
Essentially, national laws will apply rather than individual states.
While these changes are supported in principle, from the consultation today, there is little if any evidence that anyone on the AMSA Board or in senior decision making positions within AMSA has a sound working knowledge of marine tourism.
AMPTO seeks to have someone appointed to the AMSA board with a sound background in marine tourism
AMSA has been conducting consultation around Australia but AMPTO has not been included in the notices of their meetings and when AMPTO has been advised of meetings, it has been at short notice that has conflicted with other appointments already accepted.
Feedback from meetings attended by various marine tourism individuals has produced very mixed messages with conflicting advice.
A consistent message from AMSA is that if our industry was able to do something before the changes, it will be able to do it after the changes occur. This is clearly not the outcome delivered in documentation seen to date
AMPTO seeks to have consultation meetings set well in advance and not during peak tourism periods.
With the commodities boom, shipping in GBR is expected to at least double and those ships will be carrying bulk commodities that would be a disaster for the GBR if spilt. Already, on average, there are two major shipping incidents per year.
Given the potential for catastrophic damage from fuel, oil, coal, sugar, etc and the number of serious groundings already being experienced and with those groundings certain to increase, AMPTO seeks to have compulsory pilotage and one way traffic systems put in place.
Shipping using the GBR to transit should contribute a fee to the GBRMPA to enable it to respond to groundings and major spills without adversely affecting the whole of agency budget resulting in lost services to our industry. Shipping should pay its own way, not rely on the tourism industry to pay its bills through the EMC. There should be sufficient funds immediately available to allow the GBRMPA to undertake cleanups and remediate any damage. The GBRMPA should not have to wait on insurance companies to be forced via court action to provide funds years after the event, before they can fix damage.
Irukandji Jelly Fish
- It is estimated that the cost of treating Irukandji stings in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory is $15 million per year.
- This is treatment costs and does not include lost revenue when the media beats up the tourism industry.
- CSIRO has developed a predictive model to provide warning to the public of high risk days. It perfectly matches the history of Irukandji stings but needs to be checked for accuracy with field work prior to being released.
- The cost of field work would be approximately $750,000.
- AMPTO believes that it can help coordinate a funding campaign to raise half the money needed from industry, government health departments and local councils.
- AMPTO is seeking $350,000 from the new and emerging research questions from the NERP budget for 2013/2014.
MPA (Appointment of a Marine Tourism Expert to the MPA)
- AMPTO supported the idea to have an expert in marine tourism on the MPA and in fact had the legislation changed to allow it during the Howard government with the bipartisan support for the changes.
- Daniel Gschwind was appointed for his general tourism expertise but he has no marine tourism expertise.
- AMPTO as the peak industry association continues to have no say at senior management level despite significant funding coming from us towards the GBRMPA’s budget.
- Marine tourism is the only industry that contributes money to the GBRMPA budget.
- AMPTO feels it is only natural justice and equitable for our industry to have an expert to provide advice to the MPA and has provided several names to the Minister.
- Further names were provided to the Minister in response to a gender equity question.
- AMPTO seeks to have the verbal undertakings of appointing a marine tourism expert to the MPA honoured.
- Ideally, this person will have a sound knowledge of the problems and issues faced on a daily basis by marine tourism operators within the GBR and a solid understanding of the significant challenges that marine tourism must deal with.
- Such a person should have had senior managerial expertise in a business with multiple GBR tourism products.
Dredging and Ports
- AMPTO recognises the economic imperative of mining and therefore the need to export commodities.
- Any new capital works dredging and maintenance dredging to support that new work, should be done in such a way that dredge spoil is not dumped in the marine park or water likely to pollute the marine park. Land based disposal, even reclamation projects, are preferred. Financial viability should not be a justification for dumping dredge spoil in or near the Marine Park.
- Trellis type wharfage extensions could be used at Abbott and Hay Point to reduce dredging to a minimum.
- AMPTO accepts that Gladstone, Hay Point and Abbott Point will be the main coal export ports and that they should be developed even with some water quality issues for the GBR.
- No new port or channel dredging is supported other than that stated above.
- Wongi and Fitzroy River Basin/Port Alma
- Unbelievable that these projects could even be considered.
- Barge transfer of coal in the MPA should simply not be allowed.
- Coal dust already 40 mile to sea in the MPA
Townsville and Cairns
- AMPTO supports the capital dredging of the Cairns and Townsville channels but does not support dumping of the additional dredge spoil in the GBRWHA.
- The spoil grounds off Cairns have been reported as being unstable and particular concern is that millions of cubic metres of fine mud or silt might end up on the northern beaches or adjacent reefs.
- Use of the spoil for reclamation purposes or some other purpose must be considered a better use of dredge material than simply dumping at sea.
- The changes over the last 20 years to the foreshore of Magnetic Island where mangroves are now growing and which were once white sandy beaches, has been attributed the unstable spoil ground currently being used by Townsville for maintenance dredging. This dredging spoil has also been the most significant cause of coral loss on fringing reefs.
- The GBRMPA has the legislative power to stop pollution within the GBRWHA and in waters or coastal areas likely to affect the GBRWHA
AMPTO urges the GBRMPA to simply say no to increased pollution due to dredging or port development.