West Australian - April 14, 2003


Boat owner at tether's end
By Tony Barrass

VIN O'SULLIVAN is not one to mix words. The former Argyle worker turned businessman, publican and pilot is at tether's end over his dealings with the Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Just weeks ago, Mr O'Sullivan was fined $4000 for a series of breaches under the CALM Act for illegally sinking a mooring at Bills Bay so his boat, the designated sea search and rescue vessel, could be reached quickly should the need arise.

He believes that when it comes to matters of the sea, CALM are good managers of land.

"To fight CALM I would have had to spend endless thousands and frankly, I just can't afford it," Mr O'Sullivan said. "It's all very well to come up with a plan for this and a plan for that, but at the end of the day these plans must work in a practical sense."

He understands there is a need to police such things properly but believes CALM just does not have the expertise to deal with marine issues that involve search and rescue, tourism, boating and commercial fishing.

Mr O'Sullivan said CALM had not properly marked channels through shallow Coral Bay and if boat users who do not know the area accidentally ran aground, they could face thousands of dollars in fines for damaging coral.

The decision to stop trailable boats mooring overnight in the bay means that people now must get their boats out of the water after every voyage which is almost impossible because of tides. Coral Bay was still waiting for a long-promised boat-launching facility.

CALM has announced that it will install 25 new moorings around the settlement as part of an overall strategy to "avoid conflict among users of the bay".

Some moorings have been allocated for commercial fishing, some for dive operators, others for coral-viewing boats. And those who have missed out, bad luck. They can move around to nearby Monck Head, about 1km south of the settlement.

That means elderly tourists have to walk down rocky embankments to get on board tourist boats and some businesses have to buy four-wheel-drives or small buses to transport people and/or the day's catch to and from the settlement. That costs money.

Labor Senator Peter Cook believes a proper management body such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority should be set up.

But CALM national park director Jim Sharp said there were two parks in the area that came under CALM control - the Ningaloo Marine Park and the Cape Range National Park. Managing both often came down to policing access to such areas.

"The prime issue in relation to Coral Bay is the congestion of boats, where people and boats just don't mix, the issue of public safety and the environmental impact from ad hoc moorings," he said.

"In trying to move towards a management regime for the area, people are going to be unhappy. There's a long-term plan which includes the removal of all private moorings from the bay. Why? Because you just can't have the level of private and commercial moorings in that area.

"The mooring plan is part of a wider plan and we try to be equal to all parties. But part of being an environmental manager is that you have to take a long-term view.

"Our prime consideration is to the environmental impact of human access on those parks. By establishing a mooring control area we can control numbers of boats and quality of moorings without damaging the coral."

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