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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
30 October 1996
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has accused the Democrats of putting the future health of the Great Barrier Reef at risk by attempting to wreck a scientifically-based fishing experiment.
Senator Hill says if the Democrats are successful they will destroy scientific efforts to identify better ways of managing the Reef.
"The experiment, to be undertaken by the CRC Reef Research Centre at James Cook University, involves a strictly limited number of reefs.
"Only 8 of the 500 or so reefs which are currently closed for fishing will be opened up during the experiment. Fishing will only be allowed on these reefs for a 12 month period. They will then be closed again. A further 8 reefs which are currently opened to fishing will be closed for a period of 5 years."
Senator Hill says the Democrats' grandstanding puts at risk the future of the entire World Heritage Area.
"Large areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are currently fished commercially or recreationally.
"How can we be sure that these activities are not threatening the future health of the Reef? All of our decisions on the management of the reef should be based on the best available scientific research, not left to guesswork.
"The whole purpose of this experiment on a limited number of reefs is to give us the scientific data required to ensure that the future of the Reef is not threatened by fishing activity.
"The scientific community is telling us that we need experiments such as these to ensure that future management decisions are made on sound and proven grounds.
"The Democrats are saying they don't want to know the answers. They are happy to rely on guesswork.
"Without this experiment, what guarantee can the Democrats give that current fishing activities are sustainable and pose no threat to the Reef?
"Guesswork may be OK for the policy formulation of the Democrats but it is totally unsatisfactory for the future of one of our greatest natural assets.
"The Democrats should reconsider their ill-judged position on this issue and support our scientific community's efforts to improve management of the Great Barrier Reef."
Media contact - Matt Brown on (06) 277 7640 or 0419 693 515.