Home' Ausmarine : November 2010 Contents The Solitary Islands 1.
On taking up a new office I found quite a few anonymous
papers probably left behind by the emeritus chief biologist Dr
A.M. Rapson. One of these reads:
Having covered some 15,000 miles in and around Papua New
Guinea, the Department of External Territories fisheries research
vessel 'Fairwind' left Port Moresby on June 15, 1950, bound for
Sydney to be refitted for work with the new South Pacific
Commission. Much of its work had been a daily hazard over or
near reefs, many unsurveyed, and so the crew welcomed a
relatively clear run south to Sandy Cape and on home. She was
expected in Sydney on June 24.
But on June 23 the vessel was sheltering behind North
Solitary Island, some 18 miles north east of Coffs Harbour in a
southerly storm such as sometimes hits the New South Wales
coast. Over in the Harbour it actually drove a moored ship
ashore. Three days later things were not much better. So that on
June 26, AWA in Sydney received a radio message from
'Fairwind': "We are hove-to in very bad weather off North
Solitary. Can you give weather please?"
At that time the vessel was perhaps a little short of fuel but an
exchange of messages suggested that there was none available in
Coffs. Was that the reason why, at 1705 hours, the vessel radioed
that she was running for Newcastle. "Making a southerly course
in moderating south easterly winds and high seas." It was the last
that was heard from her. During the night she foundered and
later her two damaged smallboats were driven ashore at Trial Bay.
The crew of twelve Papua New Guineans and five Australians
simply disappeared. The only name we have is that of the Mate,
The Solitary Islands 2.
I've never been to Coffs Harbour but am told that it was
originally named by John Korff in 1847, he having sheltered there,
perhaps in another southerly buster. Wikipedia says it's a great
holiday place which supplies the world with bananas, so its Big
Banana monument is a natural. There are also Celtic connections,
the biggest Sikh colony in Oz, and it is plagued by no less than
twelve national and regional parks, including the marine variety
-- maybe more, I lost count!
Karon Ward of Coffs is married to fisho Phill Ward. Their
trawler is named 'Henry Lawson' and the family has not only
fished for 36 years but also wholesale and retail their products.
What is more, they have the only A-rated export, AQIS-approved
premises in the region.
Look at the Ward photo on page 22 of Ausmarine, September
2010. What a fine looking family of four and a half male
generations (we'll get the ladies in later, perhaps) which includes
a future marine scientist who would doubtless be a great asset
-- if the firm is permitted to stay in the fishing business, which
seems doubtful the way thing are progressing; or should I say
The gist of Karon's letter in Ausmarine is that seven years ago
the New South Wales Marine Parks Authority (MPA) reduced
commercial fishing grounds by 50 percent in the local Solitary
Islands Marine Park, and now proposes to close the lot. Her long
and passionate plea suggests that it would be the end for them and
their kind in Coffs, so she has been raising public awareness and of
course has responded to the New South Wales MPA
(www.mpa.nsw.gov.au) invitation for public comment, as it is
required by law. I know little about the New South Wales MPA but
am very familiar with such folk in no less than five other
countries. If I've got it right, this one comes within the
Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Water. How's
that for a daunting ideological cluster?
The MPA's website is extensive, nicely done and, having
undertaken much marine survey, presents itself as competent to
formulate policy on conservation, which basically is that unless
fish are protected from commercial fishing then some species will
be wiped out. The argument, of course, is quite insupportable
but your average urban citizen will vote for it: that is what matters
-- keeping government and the bureaucracy in business.
The proposal for further closures concerns the Solitary Islands
Marine Park but it is well to understand that it contains both the
North Solitary Island -- where the 'Fairwind' sheltered -- well
offshore (it is actually Commonwealth territory although is
managed by the MPA) and South Solitary Island, close inshore and
in New South Wales state waters, which is where the further
closures will actually take place (if I've got that right). So what?
Well, the inshore Solitary Islands Marine Park already covers some
47 kilometres (yes, that's right) of coastal waters with a host of
differing regulations which even the anglers must find confusing.
Take a look at the MPA marine park maps and wonder how it can
all be enforced.
So what is the point; isn't that enough? The whole premise, of
course, has little or no foundation in fact. Commercial fishing, like
any other business, ceases as soon as there is no profit, which is
long before any species is endangered. Indeed, as Karon Ward
repeats, no marine species has ever been wiped out by fishing. But,
of course, the western world is awash with environmental affairs
eagerly taken up by a seemingly lost secular society desperate to
recover its identity. Daily the dollar-hungry media is filled with it,
so what can the likes of the MPA do but march in step, even if
individuals are reluctant to participate? It is ironic that such
unproductive work may well restrict commercial fishing,
something which feeds the people, helps employ local folk, and
supports the economy in general.
So what do we do, Karon? Perhaps we might turn back to page
21 (the one before yours) and see how academe gets the serve it
requires when considered out of line by such folk as Dr Walter
Starck, a leading marine authority who suffers no bureaucratic
waffle from what he regards as sheltered workshops.
Your point of view, on the other hand was a well written and
most reasonable humanist essay. What effect has it had? Have
people flocked to your aid and is the MPA greatly concerned? Well,
if you have to go into battle -- something long overdue by all the
fishing industry -- you will no doubt be asked to examine the MPA
web and point out scientific error.
Don't be sidetracked, the fact remains that prognostication in
fisheries should not be used to put the fishermen out of business
without irrefutable proof, which does not yet exist. Science
should never permit ideology to been used by governments and
I also suggest that you read Walter Starck's, "The Green
Torpedoes that Sank the National Fishing Fleet," published in the
June issue of Quadrant magazine (www.quadrant.org.au) from
which there are two quotes worth repeating here.
(1) "No marine fish or invertebrate has ever been exterminated by
fishing and none in Australia are even remotely threatened. The
only truly endangered marine species in Australia is the
(2) "Spending $1.7 billion a year to import a renewable resource we
already have in abundance, paying for it by selling off
non-renewable resources and calling this sustainable
management, is beyond stupid."
Is the New South Wales MPA willing to debate its Solitary
Islands Marine Park policy in public?
If that should so occur, I hope somebody speaks up to the
effect that both funding and staffing of any such agency should
be linked to its direct benefit to the nation. Further, that
managers should be elected, not appointed, for limited terms,
renewable only upon success, as publicly judged. Else Coffs'
fisheries and many others may be overwhelmed and sunk just like
Grumpy Old Bastard
November 2010 AUSMARINE
Links Archive October 2010 December 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page