Great Barrier Reef Petition sent. Queensland government misinformation continues.

Posted on August 18, 2008
Written by: Shark Savers

August 18, 2008 On August 6th, we sent the petition, with over 3200 signatures and comments, to stop shark fishing in the Great Barrier Reef to the following Ministers:
The Honorable Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestryThe Honorable Martin Ferguson, Minister for TourismThe Honorable Peter Garrett, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the ArtsThe Honorable Tim Mulherin, Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and FisheriesThe Hon. Andrew McNamara, Queensland Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and InnovationThe Hon. Desley Boyle, Queensland Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry Our cover note said:
Attached is a petition addressed to you, signed by people from throughout Australia and the world calling upon you to stop the dedicated shark fishery in Queensland. 
Specifically, we respectfully urge you to:Extend the no-take zone for sharks to the entire Great Barrier Reef World Heritage AreaEstablish firm quotas outside of this no-take zone, not softer 'triggers'The quotas should be based on scientific assessments on a by-species basisAdd all vulnerable and endangered species of shark to the no-take listRescind the decision to issue dedicated shark fishing licensesWe acknowledge that the stated purpose of the the DPI&F proposals is to establish a sustainable shark fishery. While we would prefer that shark fishing were eliminated altogether given the vulnerable and depleted state of sharks worldwide, we could be supportive of a truly sustainable shark fishery. But frankly, the DPI&F proposals are so lacking in what we can identify as honestly sustainable practices that we are surprised they are even being presented as such. 
Over 3200 people have come to the Shark Savers website or events within the past couple of months to review and sign our petition. You will note that many of the signatories of this petition have added their heartfelt comments. We hope you take the opportunity to read these intelligent messages to you.
The collapse of shark populations worldwide is extreme, time is of the essence, and this is certainly not the time to entrench bad practices which are likely to accelerate disaster in the Great Barrier Reef. A review of the DPI&F proposals and creation of a more conservative plan to protect sharks is not only of extreme importance to the sharks, but is of vital benefit to the health of the reef system. 
If you would like to discuss our petition and position, please do not hesitate to contact us. 
It has been almost two weeks since we sent the petition, and we have not heard a response. However, the government has made recent comments in the press on the issue in reaction to statments made by the WFF and Sea Shepherd, which can be read here:
WWF warns against shark fishing licences

Conservationists don't want reef shark fishery
The government spokespeople make two claims in these articles that don't appear to us to be based on the facts of the shark fishery or the government's published proposals.
The first claim is: "there are no plans to catch and process sharks on the Great Barrier Reef."
Our understanding is that the 'no-take' zone in the Great Barrier Reef, where harvesting of sharks is banned, represents only 30% of the official GBR area. Shark fishing both takes place in and is permitted in the other 70%. It is our understanding that most of the 700 tons of sharks that is anticipated to be caught each year in Queensland under the new proposals will come from the Great Barrier Reef area. 
The second claim made by the governmnt spokesperson is that the proposal 'will actually reduce the number of sharks that are caught off the Queensland coast." "There's an argument that we're introducing a new fishery, well that's not the case it's just a mechanism within licensing to restrict the operation down to 200 from 1,400."
No, there is no attempt to reduce the number of sharks caught. Further, there is no relationship between reducing licenses and reducing catch. This is because 200 new shark fishing licenses are being given to those boats that are doing virtually all of the current shark fishing. The higher number of 1400 does not refer to boats with shark fishing licenses, but boats with general licenses, the type that currently exists. The holders of the 1400 licenses could target sharks if they wanted to, but only 200 of those actually do target sharks. Those 200 are the ones eligible for the new shark-specific licenses. Everyone targeting sharks now will again be targeting sharks, but this time with licenses that specifically give them rights to do so. Rights that will be harder to take away in the future because they are specific.
Moreover, the 'trigger target' of 700 tons of shark per year included in the new proposals is the same level as the last recorded annual catch. If the number of licenses was truly a meaningful attempt to reduce the number of sharks being taken, then we would see a reduction in the trigger target. If they really cared about reducing the number of sharks caught, we'd not only see a lower target, but that target would be a real quota, or ceiling. The trigger merely triggers a review. When 700 tons is reached, everyone keeps on fishing for sharks while the government has three months to first launch a review to then decide what to do, if anything.
We can't tell from here whether these spokespeople are misinformed or are disingenuous. And, of course, there is a chance that we and all the experts we consulted have misinterpreted the proposals in some way. Maybe someone from the government will get back to us and we can find out.