Tuesday, 17 August 2010

If fish could vote, the Liberal Party would be thoroughly battered at the election to be held on Saturday. Crumbs! Just think - if this little guy looks angry imagine how he'd cast his vote if he had the opportunity to do so.

Last week, for example, Tony Abbott was in central Queensland, with one of his daughters, where he could be seen filleting barrumundi and promising to block any more marine parks along Australia's seemingly-endless coastline. It's a blatant stab at the Greens and must feel like a dagger held at the heart to our finny friends, like this little guy. Thank Log they can't make out much of what happens this side of the molecular divide.

The Australian Marine Sciences Association can, though, and they tell us that the country's exclusive economic zone consists of 11 million square kilometres. It's the third largest in the world. And Australia, furthermore, has obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish, by 2012, a network of marine protected areas.

The convention settled on a figure of 10 percent of the world's ecological regions in 1992, when it was ratified by 192 states and the European Union. So "at least" 10 percent of our globe must be set aside for conservation of species, including fish. Time's running out.

Others are asking the two people who are competing for our votes this week to step up and declare measures, including marine parks, to protect biodiversity. A group of 142 scientists has signed an open letter to Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard "stressing the importance of networks of marine protected areas, and their strong scientific basis".

The email landed in my inbox this morning. And it's not just a couple of aquatic nerds out begging for a bit of promotional oomph in a lame attempt to get some undeserved media air. It's a well thought-out plea for more consideration by the two prospective leaders not to destroy the small gains achieved under the current government.

It also makes good sense.
Scientific studies have confirmed several ‘common sense’ outcomes. Where areas are effectively protected (and that does mean that compliance measures must be in force) harvested species (fish, for example) tend to be older, larger and more abundant . In a few cases statistically significant evidence of a beneficial effect of marine reserves cannot be found largely because of inadequate data, or insufficient time for effects to clearly manifest, not because there are actually no effects. This is particularly important because, unlike many land dwelling vertebrates, larger females tend to be more effective breeders (often much more effective).

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