Gold Coast bay and Moreton bay in the urbanised south-east Queensland are home to a large number of marine mammals including the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, dugongs, and the humpback whale. A recent study (http://www.hhr.org.au/files/BehaviourStudy.pdf ) has confirmed that humpback whales use the Gold Coast as a resting area during their southern migration. In particular mothers and calves were found to spend hours or days on the surface to rest with their calves.
Since the coastal development in Australia rapidly increased in the 1980s we have generated more boat traffic, more noise, more pollution and consequently more risk and death of marine mammals. Unnatural causes of death of whales and dolphins will continue to increase unless we start acting now.
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We need a firm commitment and the political will to reduce threats and the prevention of new hazards including emerging coastal modifications in the Gold Coast bay or we will continue to move ever closer to drive marine mammals out of the area.
The Gold Coast prides itself on its natural resources – clean beaches, blue waters and abundant marine life. Whale watching and dolphin handling is a multi-million dollar industry in this area. It is our duty of care and obligation to ensure that whales and dolphins continue to call our coast their home, now and in the future.
With 50 000 recreational boat licences on the Gold Coast alone, 11 shark nets from the so called “shark control program” and continuing coastal modification we are placing whales and dolphins at risk.
Over the past 25 years, there have been over 150 reported entanglements of whales and dolphins in south-east Queensland shark nets with the majority being killed, 20 reported boat collisions increasing by 15% per year and a suspected large number of unreported incidents.
The entanglements of whales in shark nets are costly, cause injury or death to the animals and put rescuers in danger. They are also bad publicity for a tourist destination and cause damage to the Gold Coast image.
High traffic density along the migration corridor, noise pollution, ocean debris and rubbish combined with unsafe boating practice are injuring people and wildlife.
In light of this exacerbating coastal destruction the pressure on our marine ecosystem is increasing to a point of no return – now is the time to act.
Australia has been a longstanding and outspoken advocate for the protection of cetaceans at the International Whaling Commission. Our country is measured by its action by the rest of the world. Protecting whales at our doorstep is as equally important as putting pressure on whale hunting nations.
We hold the unique Gold Coast bay whale resting area in trust for the rest of the world. I therefore urge you to bring your efforts to secure the Gold Coast as an area where humpback whale calves can rest and dolphins forage without having to risk their lives.
The government has shown an unwillingness to support scientific research in south-east Queensland and translate the best available scientific knowledge into effective management decisions. As a result, policies and management actions are short of what is required to protect humans and marine mammals.
I therefore ask your government to avoid, remedy or mitigate the currently unsustainable impacts of shark netting and boat trafficking as a matter of urgency by:
• Centring management decisions and policies on the best available independent scientific information;
• Applying smart solutions to over crowded waterways to avoid fatal collisions with marine mammals;
• Helping prevent costly shark entanglements, causing unnecessary pain or death to marine mammals;
• Developing calm zones in aggregation areas of marine mammals;
• Developing objective, science-based, measurable and testable management targets for the avoidance of entanglements and collisions;
• Implementing a comprehensive, scientifically sound observer program to identify and quantify interactions, and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
If the current state of insufficient protection measures is allowed to continue, the outcome is devastating for whales and the tourism industry.
I ask you to protect and secure our vital natural resources for future generations by reducing marine mammal mortality and injury.
Please, protect and secure the Gold Coast bay as a resting spot for whales.