“Calls for Barrier Reef to be declared disaster area”

Cyclone Hamish [maptype=G_SATELLITE_MAP;gpxview=all]

According to the ABC news website, a number of people including the Queensland Sea Food Industry Association are calling for the southern half of the Great Barrier Reef to be declared a ‘disaster zone’. Reports from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority suggest that >50% of the reef was affected by cyclone hamish, and reports from the commercial fishing operators say that in the wake of cyclone, most commercially viable fish stocks have all but disappeared:

“Half the reef has been completely overturned from Bowen South. It’ll affect tourism, it’ll affect certainly commercial fishers – about 50 per cent or 300 jobs are at risk with 30 guys put off yesterday,” he said.

“There’s just nothing left out there to fish on.”

He says the damage is having a similar effect to Cyclone Larry’s destruction of banana farms three years ago.

“We’ve had our boats out there working this week for the first time after the cyclone and people with 20 years experience can’t recognise the damage being done,” he said.

“Their catches where they’d catch 150 fish a day have been down to five fish a day.”

The Department of Primary Industries says such a disaster declaration would be a first.

But director-general Jim Groves says the circumstances are unusual.

“This is what we call a quota management fishery. These fishermen, some of them have actually paid to go and catch these fish so they’ve paid for a right they no longer have because of a natural disaster, so that’s what makes it different to past events,” he said.

I hadn’t actually got chance to look at the track of the cyclone yet, but after plotting the path above in Google Earth, it looks like the Swains Reefs in the south-eastern GBR took a direct hit whilst hamish was a category 5 (>290km/h wind gusts).

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