Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
an overview of the perceived depletion of fish stocks. The account presented
here suggests that the cumulative effect of various impacts on fish may have been
significant for some species, and that significant degradation has almost certainly
occurred to some fish habitats.
Although fish have been taken from the Great Barrier Reef by Europeans since
the arrival of the Endeavour , early European fishing took place on an opportunistic
basis, and a wide variety of methods were used by fishers. One particularly
destructive practice was the dynamiting of coral reefs for fish. Although dynamite
fishing is an activity that has been comparatively overlooked in accounts of the
history of the Great Barrier Reef, documentary and oral history evidence indicates
that the practice was once prevalent in Queensland coastal waters and reefs.
In 1913, the Queensland Treasury Departmental Committee investigated the
Queensland fisheries; that Committee commented that, at almost every port,
'complaints were made that dynamite is freely used for taking fish' (Boult et al.,
1913, p1041). The Committee stated that:
The use of explosives for the purpose of obtaining fish in the inland waters
has, it is stated, been most freely adopted in the waters in the neighbourhood
of any large construction works which have been carried out, and to this
abuse the residents attribute the scarcity of fish owing to the destruction of so
much of the 'small fry'.
(Boult et al., 1913, p1052)
In an attempt to control the problem of dynamiting, prosecutions for the
illegal use of explosives for taking fish were made in 1925, in the Brisbane and
Maryborough districts, and large fines were issued. Describing those measures,
the Director of the Queensland Marine Department stated: 'It is hoped these
will have a salutary effect on persons disposed to this method of destroying fish,
which is most wasteful to fish life and dangerous to the user' (Forrester, 1925,
p295). Numerous prosecutions for the use of explosives for fishing were reported
in Queensland during the period 1925-197 0. 2
However, preventing the use of dynamite by fishers was not easy. In 1931,
J. D. W. Dick (1931, p6), the Acting Chief Inspector of Fisheries, reporting a
prosecution for the use of explosives, stated that:
This nefarious practice is particularly destructive of young fish, and is most
difficult to detect, as the offender can carry the necessary equipment in his
[ sic ] pocket, and usually selects some infrequented locality in which to carry
out his purpose.
By 1933, despite regulations and publicity aimed at preventing the use of
explosives, the practice had not ceased; J. Wyer, the Honorary Secretary of the
North Queensland Naturalists' Club (NQNC), stated that 'dynamiting on the
reef is as prevalent as ever', a fact he attributed to inertia on the part of those who
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