Geoscience Reference
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We would like to stop the destruction of sardines which visit the shores of
Green Island in large shoals, and [are] an attraction for tourists. It has been
known people throwing cast-nets from the jetty will catch ¾ of a sugar bag
of sardines in one cast. After this happening for a month or so the sardines
disappear for from three to twelve months. We would not like to stop people
securing sufficient bait for fishing while they were on the Island, but to fill
cases and bags of sardines to take away should be stoppe d. 8
The Queensland Chief Inspector of Fisheries responded to this complaint,
reiterating that the use of cast nets was illegal throughout Queensland; the
caretaker at Green Island, W. D. Scott, who was also a Queensland Honorary
Inspector of Fisheries, was instructed to seize cast nets under Section 44 (1) (d)
of The Fish and Oyster Act s . 9
If the increasing exploitation of the Great Barrier Reef fisheries had become
a cause for concern by the end of the 1930s, the intensity of fishing in these
waters nevertheless increased in the subsequent decades: that increase was a
consequence of the economic importance of the commercial fisheries to the
development of the State. In addition, the significance of charter operations
for fishing parties increased. For example, the charter fishing industry expanded
during the 1960s, stimulated by the growth of the black marlin ( Makaira indicus )
fishing industry; that industry commenced in 1966 in the waters between Cairns
and Lizard Island (Dodds, 2004).
Another type of fishing that grew in popularity between 1930 and the 1960s -
with severe consequences for reef fish populations - was spearfishing. This activity
was controversial since it was regarded as an easy method of wreaking significant
destruction on large fish; nevertheless, spearfishing was pursued at many resort
islands and reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. As recently as 1969, complaints were
received about the damage caused by spearfishers to coral reef fish, although the
problem was difficult to address since the offshore reefs lay outside the jurisdiction
of the Queensland authorities; in any case, supervision of the more remote reefs
was difficult . 10 Some evidence of the impacts of spearfishing at Heron Island was
provided in the following account of 1969 by Peel, the Director of the QDHM,
who stated that:
Prior to June 1963, spear-fishing was permissible in the vicinity of Heron
Island. It was then claimed by the management of the tourist resort, and
supported by the Great Barrier Reef Committee, that it was no longer
possible for tourists in the glass-bottomed boats to view larger groper: as fast
as such fish were located, they fell prey to spear-gunner s. 11
Damage also occurred at Green Island where, in 1972, objections were raised
to the 'wilful destruction of coral and the use by spear fishermen of bullets
fired underwater', as the Hon. J. Herbert, Queensland Minister for Labour and
Tourism, acknowledged . 12
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