Gympie’s Frank Watson says fishing interests are doing it tough already.
Gympie’s Frank Watson says fishing interests are doing it tough already. Craig Warhurst

New Coral Sea battle

GYMPIE-based fishing industry advocates have promised a new battle for the Coral Sea, with claims the proposed fishing lockout will have no environmental benefits.

"You have to wonder why they are really doing it," Tin Can Bay environmental consultant Joe McLeod said yesterday.

Mr McLeod said the lock-up would lead to massively accelerated harvesting of Australian tuna in Papua New Guinea waters by Thai and Philippine-based corporations.

And Gympie lawyer Michael Garrahy claimed the whole issue was driven by American big oil guilt money, combined with conservation groups which would not impose such restrictions in their own countries.

In comments also aimed at other offshore Queensland green zones, Mr Garrahy said the lock-ups would not stop fish being harvested.

"It's just that they won't be harvested in a sustainable fashion by Australian fishing interests. It will be done by other countries' fishing fleets, with the product then sold back to us," he said.

Mr McLeod said there had been no environmental risk assessment prior to the move to close the Coral Sea and, of 461,000 submissions in favour of it, all but 1000 had turned out to be computer generated letters from organised conservation groups.

"It's not science based," he said.

Watson's Marine director Frank Watson said the Coral Sea lock-up would have disastrous economic affects at a time when regional businesses were already suffering in a depressed market.