Letter to the West: Re Paul Murray’s attack on Sanctuaries Science

Published Monday 13th June in The West Australian…

Paul Murray’s editorial claiming no science case for marine sanctuaries was an offense to the thousands of scientists who have spent countless hours at sea and in the lab meticulously building the vast scientific literature that now backs the calls for more protection.

 His argument in itself is flawed, the primary science case for marine sanctuaries is for conservation and is not about how our fishing is managed. No one would argue now that we should have no National Parks on land because kangaroos are hunted sustainably, or our old growth forest should be logged because they might grow back.  Fully protected marine sanctuaries have been proven to protect marine life and restore degraded habitats, often with benefits for fishing too.

 However, Murray’s assertion that fishing is having no impact on the environment because of one report released by the Fisheries Department deserves answering.  In short, he has fallen for a propaganda exercise. The good news in the report has been dramatically oversold, whilst the recognition of the decline in some large top of food chain species like the Dhufish and concerns about the lack of information on our fisheries have been ignored.

 Critically, the report brief meant it only looked at catch data over 30 years up to 2006, before the collapse in the ‘Vulnerable Five’ large fish stocks and Western Rock Lobster larval counts was identified.

 A network of marine sanctuaries will protect and conserve our marine life, and might just also help to ensure we can still catch a dhufish in the future.


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