Plans to create a Commonwealth marine reserve off the Tweed Coast have been shelved, thanks to the persistence, determination and collaborative effort of the Tweed fishing industry, lobbyist and Gold Coast Mayoral candidate, Keith Douglas, Senator Ron Boswell, anglers and fishing clubs.
The Federal Government last year identified oceans off the Tweed as an 'area for further assessment' as it sought to develop a network of 'multiple use' and 'no take' marine zones.
The proposed zone took in marine parks off the Fraser Coast, as well as the Tweed-Byron, from three to about 44 nautical miles off the shore at its widest point.
But the Federal Government draft marine plan for Australia’s temperate east region does not include the proposed marine park off the Tweed Coast.
'It’s a triumph of science over spin,' says Keith Douglas. 'And it is a very important win to recreational fishing and boating in the region.'
The fishing industry and allied groups made it too hot to handle, says Douglas. 'We used real science and showed that this region produces some of the most productive fishing and trawling ground. Their boundaries were based on arbitrary lines and borders. It was political decision to put it in and political decision to take it out.'
With the region, explains Douglas, 'all the fishing clubs got in to action. They burnt Labor badly and cost them eight Federal seats at the last election. There are too many votes in the area, so they have dropped it.'
Douglas also credits the work of marine scientist, Dr Ben Diggles, a specialist in health of aquatic animals. 'We used his insight and expertise on a number of occasions to pull apart the spurious reports and taking on the Greens at their own game.
'Ben is a smart scientist and knows the real issues are water quality in the estuaries, artificial reefs and pollution – the big issue. The jury is still out, but there are reports showing that there are chemicals in sewerage water which is impacting on the health and fertility of marine life.'
Douglas refers to Fisheries reports and industry feedback of record catches of marlin and tuna along the east coast. 'It just proves that the theory of depleted numbers due to fishing has been debunked. The political point-scoring of creating marine parks has to make way for real science and the real issues.'