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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

AMCS anti fishing campaign

WHEN shipping was stopped in Canada's Bay of Fundy following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on New York City, few could have predicted the positive impact it would have on the struggling population of northern right whales. 

As shipping was stopped and the waters stilled along the Atlantic coast of North America, there was a dramatic shift in results of long-term testing of the region's whales.

It was the first evidence that constant exposure to low-frequency ship noise may cause chronic stress in whales, with potentially devastating consequences for reproduction.
The findings have implications for all baleen whales, which communicate using low-frequency sound, including humpbacks, which pass though areas of heavy ship traffic.

Yet if you read Australian Marine Conservation Society’s submission into the Coral Sea they fail to mention anything about this threat. Here it is full for you

24th February 2012

Dear Sir/Madam,

Submission by the Australian Marine Conservation Society on the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve proposal

The protection of Australia’s unique and diverse marine environment is of critical importance to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and our 20,000 supporters across the country. AMCS appreciates the opportunity to provide a submission on the proposed Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve and we look forward to future engagement in the process.

The Marine Bioregional Planning process is an opportunity to deliver world class protection for Australia’s world class marine environment. Consequently, AMCS as a founding member of the Protect our Coral Sea coalition, is calling for the establishment of a very large, world-class, highly protected marine national park in the Coral Sea to protect its incredible natural features and marine life including, but not limited to, coral reefs, seamounts, troughs, critical spawning sites and migration routes.

AMCS welcomes the government’s policy commitment to implement a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Delivering on such a commitment will position Australia as a world leader in marine conservation and be a true investment in the future of Australia’s marine environment and the economies that rely on its long term health and productivity. To meet this commitment, we recommend the government ensures that the networks of marine reserves for each of the South West, North West, North, Coral Sea, and Temperate East marine bioregions are declared under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act no later than the end of 2012.

AMCS welcomes the intention to establish a marine reserve in the Coral Sea, as part of a larger network or reserves around the country. The Coral Sea region is globally important for biodiversity as one of the healthiest areas that remain in our global ocean. The Coral Sea is home to 341 species which are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species thereby providing Australia an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of globally threatened and important marine life.

Over the past four years thousands of AMCS supporters have written letters to their MPs and emailed successive Federal Environment Ministers asking for the protection of our iconic Coral Sea. They’ve done so in unison with tens of thousands of others who also support this important cause through the broader Protect our Coral Sea coalition. In addition, since the consultation period opened in November, many AMCS supporters have emailed formal submissions to the public consultation over the proposed marine reserve as individuals concerned about the conservation of the marine environment. At time of submission the Protect our Coral Sea coalition had facilitated over 60 000 submissions in support of greater protection. This makes the protection of the Coral Sea one of Australia’s most widely supported conservation initiatives of a lifetime.

The response by AMCS and Protect our Coral Sea supporters is just one indication of the huge community support, interest and expectation that exists for the meaningful protection of the Coral Sea. This high level of public support gives the government the mandate, indeed the duty, to ensure that the final marine reserve for the Coral Sea delivers a very high level of protection for the Coral Sea and for its coral reefs, seamounts, troughs, critical spawning sites and migration routes.

The protection of the Coral Sea in a very large highly protected Marine National Park Zone is supported by science. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that marine national parks are critical to the future of our oceans and that large marine national parks are particularly beneficial for marine life. Marine national parks help to protect and recover populations of threatened species, provide benefits to fish stocks and build resilience so the marine environment can better withstand the affects of climate change. This is particularly important in the Coral Sea where extreme weather events and the isolation of reefs make life in the Coral Sea all the more vulnerable. The numerous peer reviewed publications have, for example, been reviewed and summarised in a number of literature reviews.

The establishment of marine reserves is also supported by the economics. Marine reserves provide benefits to coastal communities and the broader economy. Nature based tourism is a predicted winner from the protection of the Coral Sea as an investment in its health is an investment in the industry’s assets.

AMCS believes the proposed marine reserve is a promising start however fails to deliver the level of protection required for this important area. The submission below provides general comments on the positives of the reserve as well as shortcomings and through these comments identifies the improvements needed.

The Positives
·         Scale of the marine reserve
The proposed reserve establishes an outer boundary of 989,842 km2. We welcome the scale of the proposed reserve as it matches the scale of important ecosystem processes such as dispersal and migration throughout the Coral Sea. At 989 842 km2, if the entire reserve were be highly protected in a Marine National Park Zone, it would provide protection for many pelagic species, being large enough to encompass significant proportions of their home ranges and life cycles, including yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and bigeye (Thunnus obesus), striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax), and shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrhinchus) 
·         Prohibition of mining and oil and gas development
Mining of any kind has no place in a marine reserve and we welcome the proposal to exclude all such activity from within all zones of the marine reserve.

·         Prohibition of demersal fishing including demersal trawl, gillnet, and demersal longline
The impacts of demersal fishing are widely recognised. Compared to many other areas within Australia’s EEZ the Coral Sea’s depth and physical characteristics dictate there is minor opportunity for bottom fishing. We understand ABARES is currently assessing the level of trawling in the proposed reserve. We welcome the exclusion of this activity within the entire marine reserve.

The Shortcomings
AMCS believes that the proposed Coral Sea marine reserve fails to fully embrace the opportunity presented by the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea may be the world’s last great tropical ocean ecosystem where a highly protected marine reserve - on the scale of the proposed multiple use reserve - could be established and effectively managed. For Australia to let this opportunity pass by would be a great loss for marine life in our waters, for Australians and the global community. The following shortcomings need to be addressed to fully realise this opportunity:

·         Coral reef protection
Under the proposal only Kenn and Mellish Reef would receive a high level of protection in a Marine National Park Zone. The zoning within the proposed reserve would leave 22 reef systems unprotected from various forms of commercial fishing and 23 reef systems unprotected from commercial charter fishing. This would mean that 90% of the Coral Sea’s reef systems which aren’t already protected by Lihou and Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserves would continue to be unprotected from various forms of fishing. This is a very significant weakness of the proposal. AMCS believes all the coral reef systems should be fully protected under a single, very large Marine National Park Zone.

Coral reefs comprise less than 1% of the Coral Sea’s area. Global biodiversity patterns suggest they are likely to host the majority of it marine species.

219 species of coral that are known to exist in the existing Coral Sea Conservation Zone (CSCZ) are included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of these, 96 were listed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable, therefore 42% of corals of the greatest conservation concern globally occur in the CSCZ. The Coral Sea’s reefs, shoals and cays are likely to be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the resulting acidification, temperate change and strong weather events that are predicted. Protecting these features from extractive activities such as fishing is our best management option to enable them to survive and recover from these impacts.

·         Seamount protection
The southern Coral Sea boasts several seamounts and is considered a global biodiversity hot spot for apex predators including the short fin mako (Isurus oxyrhinchus), blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and bronze whalers (Carcharhinus brachyurus). These features are inadequately protected under the proposal and the continuation of pelagic longline fishing in these areas is another serious weakness. Pelagic longline fishing should be removed from the entire area of the marine reserve, creating a globally significant safe haven for pelagic species that are under pressure elsewhere in the Pacific.

·         Trough protection
The Coral Sea contains Australia’s largest marine trough systems – the Queensland and Townsville troughs. These systems boast the only known black marlin spawning aggregation in the world as well as spawning aggregations of lanternfish, bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna, listed by the IUCN as vulnerable and near-threatened respectively. The partial prohibition of longline fishing in the Townsville trough and for the entire Queensland trough is a positive move. All commercial fishing should be removed from these productive and important features. 

·         Overly complex zoning
For a very remote area such as the Coral Sea the proposed complex zoning arrangements may pose a significant challenge and be more costly to manage than a simpler zoning scheme. Research demonstrates that simpler zoning arrangements were more cost-effective to manage than more complex ones. A complex zoning arrangement will require greater resources to monitor and enforce.

·         Protection from commercial charter fishing
Commercial charter fishing in the Coral Sea is an activity undertaken by a small number of individuals, particularly when compared to regions such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The impact of fishing on reef fish populations at isolated locations in the Coral Sea is unknown to science however, given the isolated and relatively undisturbed nature of these reefs, it is likely the reef fish populations are particularly vulnerable to even minor levels of fishing pressure. AMCS understands that the vast majority of commercial charter fishing occurs within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and hence that the exclusion of this activity would have very minimal impact upon the industry and yet would ensure the Coral Sea’s reefs are secure from this potential threat.

In summary, AMCS urges the Department to protect the Coral Sea’s coral reefs, seamounts, troughs, spawning sites and migration routes in a highly protected Marine National Park Zone. As one of the least impacted tropical marine environments on the planet, the Australian government has an opportunity to protect something truly special and secure Australia an enduring claim as a world leader in marine conservation.

We recognise the commitment of the Minister and Department to the protection of the Coral Sea as a beacon of hope in our global ocean. We commend your efforts to this point, however the aforementioned shortcomings must be addressed if this truly special place is to remain healthy and productive and be safeguarded for future generations of Australians and the global community.

We thank the Department for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Coral Sea Marine Reserve and look forward to our continued engagement with the department on this important development. Please do get in contact if we can provide further information or clarification of anything raised in this submission.

Yours sincerely,

Daisy Barham
Coral Sea campaigner, Australian Marine Conservation Society

As you can see nothing at all about shipping or the threat this possess to the species of the area, lots about fishing though.

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