Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
1935, all the islands of the Great Barrier Reef were declared wildlife sanctuaries;
and, by 1939, one hundred islands had been designated as national parks. Those
regulations were enforced by Honorary Inspectors given legal powers under the
Fish and Oyster Acts , and Honorary Rangers under the Fauna and Native Plant
Protection Act . The QGTB also advised visitors about regulations and encouraged
compliance with their provisions. The introduction of those initiatives and
regulations suggests that, during the early 1930s, both increased visitation and use
of the Great Barrier Reef and wider acknowledgement of its economic potential
prompted some efforts to afford its resources a minimum standard of protection.
In 1938, E. O. Marks, the Honorary Secretary of the GBRC, wrote to the
Queensland Treasurer, stating:
This Committee has for many years felt much anxiety in regard to the harm
which must result from promiscuous gathering of marine and other trophies,
and thoughtless destruction of fauna and flora along the Queensland coast.
The effects of such vandalism are necessarily greatest in the most accessible
places - especially in the vicinity of tourist resort s. 9
The degradation was of particular concern in the Whitsunday region; another
report, by the lessee of South Molle Island, Mr A. W. Bauer, claimed that 'the coral
reefs surrounding Mid Molle and Denman Islands are suffering through the action
of persons removing coral'. The Director of the QGTB suggested that those two
islands should be given the same legal protection from coral collectors as other
protected reefs. In July 1939, the number of foreshores and reefs protected under
The Fish and Oyster Acts, 1914 to 1935 was increased to include the remainder
of Whitsunday Island as well as Mid Molle, Denman, Hook, Border, Deloraine,
West Molle and Long Islands in the Whitsunday Group, and Seaforth Island in
the Cumberland Grou p. 10
Yet the legal protection of coral reefs did not prevent their degradation by
coral collectors, who continued to souvenir specimens illegally. The attractions
of 'reefing' were described by the Secretary of the Queensland Office of the
Commissioner for Railways who, after visiting Lady Musgrave Island, wrote that:
Lady Musgrave has extensive coral reefs which provide ample opportunities
for reefing at low tides when tourists can see every variety of marine growth
and life. […] On the edge of the reefs and in coral pools, coral gardens
flourish in all their beauty . 11
However, the Secretary reported that the reef specimens were so numerous that
'it becomes difficult to prevent tourists from collecting them'. He also reported
that, in an attempt to dissuade visitors from taking coral collecting, the caretakers
of Lady Musgrave Island, Mr and Mrs Bell, 'discourage the removal of marine
growths in every way and to assist in this object specimens of reef life are not even
collected for display purposes at the settlement' . 12
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