REMOTE sensing will form a major role in managing the Coral Sea under a new proposal for the marine reserve.
It comes as the total cost of the Federal Government’s Commonwealth Marine Reserves review has been revealed to be $4.7 million – nearly the whole cost of managing all of Australia’s 26 reserves under current programs.
The Government’s Bioregional Advisory Panel for the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review is preparing to submit its management proposals within the next month, after travelling the country for public consultations.
The advisory panel’s co-chairs, Professor Colin Buxton and Peter Cochrane, in Cairns this week testing their revised zoning options, said remote sensing was recommended for managing the 1 million sq km reserve.
“As you get out into the Coral Sea, there’s less users,’’ Mr Cochrane said.
“The rules, in a sense, are simpler – you’ve got bigger areas to work in, so your issues around managing it are much more focused around remote sensing.
“You don’t have to have people on the water.”
Figures included in answers to Senate estimates questions recently uploaded to the Parliament House website show the review has so far cost the Government $1.9 million, with additional expenditure projected to be $1.3 million, and about $1.5 million for drafting the new management plans.
In comparison, the 2014/15 budget allocation for marine reserve management, which includes staffing and operational activities for the 26 reserves around the nation, is $5.3 million.
The co-chairs would not comment on any recommendations they would be making to the Government for new management plans for the Coral Sea, other than to say a balance would be struck between the fishing and conservation values of the region.
“There’s going to be areas where there are going to be marine sanctuaries and there are going to be areas where there is sustainable fishing,’’ Prof Buxton said. “We’re trying to minimise those sometimes seen to be conflicting agendas.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 dive businesses across the country have written to Environment Minister Greg Hunt urging him to maintain the Coral Sea sanctuary, regarded as the “jewel” in Australia’s marine bioregions. They claim Queensland’s reputation as a base for unspoilt underwater experiences will be damaged if sanctuaries in the Coral Sea are permanently removed.
Mike Ball Dive Expedition owner Mike Ball said if this were to happen, there would likely be a decline in visitors and a negative economic impact in the Far North.
“Winding back marine sanctuaries risks the health of our marine life, which could deter tourists and divert tourism dollars to other areas,” he said.