2014-11-06 – deja vu on dumping

Easy couple of hours to Airlie Beach. The area is a lot different to when I was here about three decades ago. Proserpine looks forgotten. Airlie Beach is modern and the main street area looks great, even if council is heavily in debt. Cannonvale has grown unbelievably and both places join together, so it is sort of like a mini Hervey Bay.

Drying out at the Cannonvale caravan park2014-11-05 11.21.26

I attended a Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) meeting which is trying to stop the Abbott Point Coal terminal ecocide. Most Queenslanders think they had a win when the Newman government said it would pump the dredged spoil to land and not dump it on the reef. What they didn’t say is that it is to go into the wetland adjacent to the port.

Jeff Seeney reckoned their original proposal was to put it into an area that was underwater desert. Ignorance in the extreme! The area is between the reef and the land which is like a marine highway. Fish spawn near the seagrass and mangroves. The resulting baby fish grow up in wetlands and seagrass and gradually move out to the reef using what are called isolates. These are very small patches where they congregate before moving on. The government’s proposal was like taking a link out of a chain and wondering why it won’t still work.

So after the public outcry they are proposing another Gladstone. Trust us they say. With a track record of one gross fail out of one? Sure.

Why did the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority agree to dumping at sea? I have no idea, because scientifically it ain’t smart. Corruption? You decide. What I would say is that GBRMPA has lost any public license to be involved in the wetland dumping debacle with its current chairman. They have painted themselves into a corner that they cannot get out of without a sacrificial lamb.

There were sixteen passionate people at the meeting – high energy and commitment – so I have hope that they will be effective.

In front of the Fat Frog cafe at Cannonvale where Gemma bought me a milkshake2014-11-05 09.32.25

The next meeting was the Whitsunday Local Advisory Committee. There were about a dozen there with four from GBRMPA. One of them gave a presentation on Crown of Thorns, they call ‘em COTs up here. This is what I learned:

  1. They are natural although there is some doubt about the severity of outbreaks. If outbreaks before 1960 were as severe there probably would be no reef.
  2. Need more than 15 per hectare to start an outbreak
  3. They eat 150-250 cm2 of coral per day per COT
  4. They spawn Oct-Feb with millions of eggs that spread on the current so they have enormous reproductive potential
  5. There have been four recorded outbreaks. 1960s, 1979, 1993, 2010
  6. Outbreaks start near Lizard island and move south in waves
  7. There are different types of COTs in many parts of the world

In summary it is likely that they have been increasing but we don’t know. If they have, we don’t know why, despite a plethora of theories. Note that it was not until the 1960s that diving and fast outboards turned up.