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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

3AW (Ross Stevenson and John Burns)
Monday, 2 June 2003

Subject: Release of Draft Plans to Protect More of the Great Barrier Reef Under the Representative Areas Program

Ross Stevenson: The Great Barrier Reef will receive a historic boost in protection from the Federal Government. The Federal Environment Minister is Dr. David Kemp.

Good morning Doctor

Dr. David Kemp: Good morning, Ross, how are you?

Stevenson: Very well. Have you ever been to the Great Barrier Reef?

Dr Kemp: I have on many occasions. It's a magnificent spot. I think it's Australia's greatest natural icon. And this new protection will mean that it will be around for our children and our grandchildren to enjoy as well.

John Burns: Is that going to prevent what I've seen up there on the inside between the Reef and the mainland prawn trawlers just scouring the bottom of it, dragging chains?

Dr Kemp: Well, we've already banned a number of those trawlers off the Reef. I mean, when they do that they often leave large fish kills that wash up on the beaches and really destroy the amenity for everyone, so we've already put some bans in to protect some of the most sensitive areas there.

What we're now doing is going to prevent fishing in some 30 per cent more of the Reef which is just going to be enough to allow the fish stocks to recover, so people who go up there for fishing, recreational fishing, tourism, will be able to see more fish and bigger fish in the future than they do now.

Stevenson: So, on the one hand, what you're going to end up, no doubt, with is fishermen saying it's an outrage and you're taking away their livelihood, and scientists and conservationists saying it's not enough.

Dr Kemp: Well, I think some of the fishers will say that. I think the recreational fishers are beginning to realise that you just can't keep up the pressure on the Reef that there is.

You've got boating registrations going up every year, you've got 300,000 people who go there to fish, plus the almost million recreational fishers in Queensland, and we've just got to do something to make sure the fish are going to stay there, and this is what this plan will achieve.

Stevenson: How do you pick the areas where fishing is not permitted?

Dr Kemp: Well, the Reef is a pretty complex eco-system. It's divided into about 70 bio-regions and in each of those regions of the Reef we've now established a high level of protection, so the whole diversity of the Reef is properly recognised in this new plan.

Burns: It's pretty easy to stop people shooting protected species of duck, for example, but how do you protect a species of fish? Those fish up there are all sort of exotic creatures. Would the normal sort of recreational fishermen catch, you know, the beautiful black and white parrot fish instead of a coral trout?

Dr Kemp: No, they don't go for the angel fish. Well, the line fishing, they obviously target particular varieties of fish and people know where they are generally and when they're in season, but there's no doubt there's a lot of by-catch as well and particularly with the trawling. The commercial trawlers have got a right to be there and they've got a right to be listened to, but at the same time the Reef belongs to all Australians and we've got to protect it so that everyone can enjoy it.

Stevenson: Doctor, thank you very much for your time.

Dr Kemp: Not at all.

Stevenson: Dr. David Kemp, Federal Environment Minister. New plans to save the Great Barrier Reef


Commonwealth of Australia