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collectors. Since my return to Cairns, I have met two different fish collecting
parties, apparently with big budgets and well organized, who plan working
northern waters making Lizard Island their bas e. 14
However, several oral history informants reported that as a result of the
collection of coral reef fish for the aquarium trade, the abundance of the most
popular fish has declined . 15
The decline of many of the commercial and recreational fisheries of the Great
Barrier Reef as a result of over-exploitation of fish has been described by Love
(2000, p98), who stated:
Live coral reef fish, from the Great Barrier Reef and Pacific Island nations,
are air-freighted to Asia for restaurants, where they fetch large prices as status
symbols. In 1995 the live fish trade brought 25,000 tonnes of live coral reef
fishes into Southeast Asia. In 1996, a live groper sold in Hong Kong for
Numerous oral history informants provided additional anecdotal reports of
overfishing and the depletion of fish stocks in the Great Barrier Reef; those
reports, in addition to the documentary evidence presented above, suggest
that impacts on fish in the Great Barrier Reef since European settlement may
have been considerable and should ideally be the subject of separate, dedicated
investigation . 16
This chapter has presented evidence of historical impacts on some types of whale,
shark and fish, although that evidence is partial and there is scope to investigate
impacts on sharks and fish, in particular, in much greater detail. Nevertheless,
the account presented here suggests that some significant transformations have
occurred in some of the whale, shark and fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef.
Severe depletion of east Australian humpback whales occurred between 1952
and 1962 due to the operation of the commercial whaling station at Tangalooma,
leading to the collapse of that fishery due to over-exploitation of the resources on
which it was based. That episode contains a salutary lesson for the management
of marine living resources, for the collapse of the humpback whale fishery
occurred abruptly and with little warning, despite the existence of government
regulation and scientific monitoring intended to ensure a sustainable harvest.
Although that commercial fishery has now long ceased, humpback whales still
face many other threats, including vessel strikes, harassment, entanglement in
nets, ingestion of litter and pollution (including noise pollution).
Yet while the historical impacts on east Australian humpback whales are
reasonably well-documented, some of the other impacts mentioned in this
chapter - those affecting sharks and fish in the Great Barrier Reef - are less well-
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