A VERY large American philanthropic organisation based in Philadelphia, PEW, has a few projects on at the moment. In Washington DC it’s renovating and refurbishing a building in what it describes as “the heart of the nation’s capital”. According to its website seven floors will be for its staff and three floors for other NGOs (non-government, non-business organisations). That’s a lot of lobbying. Meanwhile in Australia its employed well known activist Imogen Zethoven to manage its “Coral Sea Campaign” which aims to close down fishing along the north eastern coast of Australia.
The previous Australian government [the Howard government] handed out hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate commercial fishing interests following the last campaign Ms Zethoven ran. That was when she worked for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The fishing industry of north Queensland has been gutted over the last decade, but still environment groups come back for more – this time with money from Philadelphia in the US.
Last week they announced success:
“Conservation Groups Welcome Government’s ‘First Big Step’ to Protect the Coral Sea: Sydney, Australia – 05/19/2009 – Conservation groups today welcomed the announcement by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to establish a Conservation Zone over the entire Coral Sea within Australian waters and called on the Minister to ensure sufficient resources for his Department to carry out a full and prompt assessment of the area.”
In fact, according to Jim Turnour, the federal member for Leichhardt, all that the Minister announced was the need for tourism operators to get permits, no businesses have been closed down and no new bans on fishing have been enforced or planned as demanded by PEW. At his blog yesterday he wrote:
“The Coral Sea Conservation Zone was announced by Minister Garrett and the debate about World Heritage listing of Cape York came back into focus following a meeting of Environment Ministers in Tasmania…
“Prior to the Coral Sea Conservation Zone being established the PEW Environmental Foundation had released a report and been campaigning for a no take zone in the region. There was rightly a lot of anger from local fishers who would have been completely excluded from the region. The PEW proposal and angry fishers had received much media attention in the lead up to the Minister declaring the Conservation Zone, so when it was announced I know that many fishers assumed that PEW had won in their campaign to have the Coral Sea become a no-take zone.
“What was announced however has not impacted on recreational or commercial fishers in the Coral Sea. PEW have not got their no- take zone and I will continue to fight any such proposal. Existing tourism operators and other commercial users of the area will have to obtain free permits to continue operating, but nobody’s business is being closed down by a no-take zone as proposed by PEW.
A month ago Mr Turnour wrote:
“Wherever I go at the moment whether it is getting out and about in the community, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper, an issue that has people talking is a proposal by the PEW Environmental Group to establish a Marine Park covering the entire Coral Sea.
“They want to establish a no-take zone, effectively banning fishing in an area bounded by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and our maritime border with PNG, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. This is an area of more than one million square kilometres of sea.
“In the past few weeks I have had the recreational fishing industry, commercial fishing industry, marine tourism operators, Super Yacht Group and CAFNEC all meet with me and discuss the issue. And last night I attended a meeting of more than 600 fishers opposed to the plan.
“I’ve told them all the same thing. I don’t support the PEW proposal and that I have made my views clear to the Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett.
“Given the level of community concern and the amount of misinformation this campaign has created, I will be raising the matter with the Prime Minister when I return to Parliament for budget sittings.
“At the meeting last night, it was pointed out that the PEW document proposing the marine park had a letter from the Prime Minister within it. The letter doesn’t endorse the proposal and is in fact a letter to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. PEW argues that the heritage significance of the Coral Sea battle is one reason to create the park and have included the letter from the PM to highlight its significance. PEW clearly, through quoting the PM and other Ministers in relation to the Coral Sea battle, are seeking to imply broader support for their proposal than they have.
“I need to make it clear the PEW proposal is not endorsed by the Rudd Government…
“I don’t believe that the evidence put forward by PEW makes sense. The arguments from the conservation groups in support of their proposal are quite confusing. On the one hand they say that the region is in pristine condition because there is not a lot of fishing activity, yet on the other hand they argue that the region is under threat. The Battle of the Coral Sea is a significant war time event worth commemorating but you don’t need to create a marine park of 1 million square kilometres.”
Notes and Links
The picture, taken from a public meeting in Cairns opposing the PEW proposal, is republished from the Fishing World website, http://www.fishingworldmag.com.au/news/garrett-govt-committed-to-mbpp-no-favours-for-pew
Jim Turnour, the member for Leichhardt in the Australian parliament, is Jennifer Marohasy’s younger brother.