'RIVERS NEED ESTUARIES' CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED
Biologist and AEF member Dr Jennifer Marohasy launched the AEF campaign, 'Rivers Need Estuaries' to have the current MDBA draft plan completely revised to prioritise restoring the Murray River estuary.
Dr Marohasy announced that the campaign’s petition would call on the federal parliament to recognise the estuary should be restored by re-engineering or removing the 7.6 kilometres of barrages, in part or whole, to allow inflows from the Southern Ocean.
The AEF maintains that restoring the estuary through removal of the barrages should be the priority of the basin plan as it would allow for savings of hundreds of gigalitres of water currently used to maintain artificial levels of freshwater in the Lower Lakes.
Over 800 gigalitres (equal to 800,000 Olympic swimming pools) evaporates from the Lower Lakes each year.
“Communities are being asked to give up further large amounts of water to prop up this badly managed Lower Lakes system that has been degraded by the barrages since they were completed in 1941.
“The current MDBA draft plan fails to address this fundamental issue.”
The peer-reviewed scientific literature , unlike many recent government reports, recognises that the barrages have destroyed the estuary.
The campaign has the support of communities across the basin as they face further cuts to water allocations without any specific environmental benefits yet articulated in the draft plan.
The Rivers Need Estuaries campaign petition to be tabled in the House of Representatives details the major objectives of the campaign.
This petition of concerned citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:
Despite past dire predictions, the Murray Darling Basin has not been lost to salt or drought. However, upstream water storages are not large enough to keep the Lower Lakes supplied with adequate freshwater during protracted drought. Furthermore, the 7.6 kilometres of concrete barrages that created this artificial freshwater system have destroyed the Coorong-Murray River estuary.
The petitioners request that the Australian parliament recognise that:
1. Restoring the Coorong-Murray River estuary must be a priority in any Murray Darling Basin Plan.
2. The estuary should be restored by re-engineering or removing the barrages in part or whole to allow inflows from the Southern Ocean.
3. Adelaide's water supply can be secured by building a lock downstream from Tailem Bend.
THEREFORE – We petition the members of the House to act to restore the natural estuarine environment of the Lower Lakes and Coorong.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh has encouraged community members to have their say about the plan while the MDBA community consultation period is in progress. This is an opportunity to add your voice to other community members and have a say.
The online version of the petition can be signed here.
Print copies of the petition are available in many communities or it can be downloaded here. Individuals and communities are encouraged to print and distribute the petition and when completed, return to PO Box 7 Bingara NSW 2404 by April 30th 2012.
For any queries on the Rivers Need Estuaries campaign email AEF at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Bourman RP, Murray-Wallace CV, Belperio AP, Harvey N. 2000. Rapid coastal geomorphic change in the River Murray Estuary of Australia. Marine Geology, 170, 141-168
SIGN THE PETITION!
TAKE ACTION TO SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN FOR A SENSIBLE BASIN PLAN
Send the online petition link above to your networks.
Click on the link below to send an eCard to all Federal MP's
Download copies of the printed petition, posters and fact sheets for distribution in your community.
Make a direct contribution via the PayPal button on the left to help spread this campaign right across the MD Basin.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON MURRAY DARLING WATER ISSUES
SEND AN e-postcard NOW TO FEDERAL MP's CALLING FOR ACTION!
Click here to send one of three e-postcards to all Federal Members of Parliament bringing to their attention the need to return the Lower Lakes to a natural estuarine environment.
'MUDDIED WATERS' DOCUMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS THE FLAWS OF THE MDBA PLAN
A 43 minute documentary screened on national television on December 9th 2012 highlights the many flaws of the MDBA plan tabled in parliament recently.
The plan's wilful avoidance of the effect of the 7.6km of sea-dykes that separate the Southern Ocean from the Lower Lakes precluding a return to the natural estuarine environment is an unforgivable omission.
The documentary was financed by individuals and communities in the basin fed-up with the misrepresentation of the science and evidence used to formulate assumptions on which the plan is based.
Watch the documentary here
S.A. PREMIER PUTS COST OF LIVING BEFORE MURRAY ENVIRONMENT
South Australia wants to increase its take from the Murray River for metropolitan water use as the state government attempts to appease cost of living concerns by switching off its new $1.8 billion desalination plant.
S.A. HAS WON THE RIVER FIGHT ACCORDING TO WEATHERILL
Apparently the Murray River and Lower Lakes will be 'saved' by 2024 when $1.7 billion is available to fund on-farm infrastructure projects. Open the barrages now and save the 12 year wait.
We would still like to see sensible economic analysis on the proposals to remove 2750GL from Basin communities and an answer to the question of why we continue to prop up an artificial freshwater lake system at the expense of the natural environment?
BURKE FINDS 'WRIGGLE ROOM' WITH NEW MODELLING
Lin Crase, a leading water policy expert and professor of applied economics at La Trobe University, suspects Minister Tony Burke is using new modelling to engage in some political game playing. Crase says the latest proposal for an "adoptive", more flexible plan, with future variations based on the new modelling included, will be the cause of plenty of bargaining and manoeuvrings behind closed doors between state ministers.
He also thinks it has the potential to cause rifts within the opposition between hardline "agrarian" politicians such as Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce and more progressive figures such as former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who has openly expressed dismay at the degradation of the magnificent river basin.
"The Labor Party is very keen to get this before parliament this session and it wouldn't surprise me that a minister would be looking to find the political angles in all this," Crase says.
NEW REPORT SAYS MORE SCIENCE NEEDED ON MURRAY WATER
MORE science is needed to understand the impact of returning water to the Murray-Darling Basin to bring it back to health, a new report says.A Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) report says not enough is known about the ecosystem's water needs or how ecological targets will be met.
Australia has been "very successful" at allocating water efficiently in the past, but talks on a draft basin plan are being overshadowed by single-issue disputes, it says.
Prof Langford one of the report authors said if environment flows were better understood, water could be delivered to achieve mutual benefits for farmers and environmentalists.
S.A. DESAL PLANT MOTHBALLED WHILE SHEDDING CROCODILE TEARS OVER THE MURRAY
The S.A. government has received widespread condemnation for mothballing the new desalination plant largely funded with federal grants to reduce S.A. reliance on Murray River water.
S.A. premier Jay Weatherill is happy to keep the desal plant closed and use cheap river water at a cost to the environment, while berating upstream communities for taking water from the river. Meanwhile he continues to argue that water allocation cutbacks should be increased to 3200GL so more water can be returned to the Murray.
Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh said "South Australia has announced it will increase their take from the Murray River, piping it as far away as Ceduna which is some 750 kilometres from the river,”.
“Is South Australia concerned with river health, or is its motivation to get more water down the Murray so they can pipe it to Adelaide and beyond?
INVESTIGATE WAYS TO SAVE WATER, INSTEAD OF TAKING MORE
Food security is unlikely to be maintained if significant amounts of water are taken from basin communities. AusFood Security have put proposals to federal politicians for engineering works to improve water usage in the Lower Lakes.
Find out more by visiting their website and their proposals.
LESSONS FOR THE MDBA- HOW TO DO IT AND HOW NOT TO DO IT
When David Boyd flies over Toorale Station now it nearly brings him to tears.
The former chairman and chief executive officer of Clyde Agriculture – which sold “Toorale” to the Commonwealth and NSW governments for $23.75 million in September 2008 – cannot believe the 91,383-hectare property is lying unused.
Mr Boyd said in The Land that he believed the purchase of Toorale Station in 2008 – which he said had a huge negative economic impact on the community of Bourke, for minimal environmental gain – was representative of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Meanwhile in The Stock & Land, Gregor Heard has an interesting tale of the long-term benefits of water infrastructure upgrades.
MOVEABLE BASELINE FOR NEW PLAN NOT ACCEPTABLE
Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh said he was extremely disappointed the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had not addressed some of the issues raised by the state water ministers.
Mr Walsh, who is advocating a figure of 2100GL instead of 2750GL, said taking 300 or 400GL from northern Victoria would be "a death knell for one or two of the dairy factories".
Mr Walsh said he was particularly concerned about the baseline of the MDBA's model and the scoring of the outcomes at different environmental sites and floodplain areas.
"The baseline should be a line in the sand, not a moveable starting point, to ensure we can make the most of improved river health outcomes from environmental works and measures."
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH SAYS BASIN PLAN WILL PUT RAMSAR WETLANDS AT RISK
FoE have sent a delegate to the Ramsar Convention meeting in Romania to press their case for changes to the MD Basin plan which they say will not deliver enough water to Ramsar listed sites in the Basin such as the Barmah-Millewa red gum forest.
They may well be right, as the focus of many environmental groups has been on sending a huge amount of water to maintain the artificial freshwater Lower Lakes at the end of the Murray.
Open the barrages and return the Lower Lakes to a natural estuarine system and use some of the water saved on emblematic environmental sites, such as the Barmah-Millewa forest.
BASIN PLAN NOTHING MORE THAN A FRESHWATER 'SOLUTION' FOR NATURALLY ESTUARINE LOWER LAKES
Citrus grower Neil Eagle writes on David Boyd's blog "Surely it is time that Australians realise they are being ‘conned’ by the false claims of ‘dead and dying rivers’ or ‘Lower Lakes being freshwater’ and acknowledge the Lower Lakes natural estuarine history with a 1 million ML annual evaporation rate."
ARTIFICIAL SALINITY TARGET FOR ARTIFICIAL LOWER LAKE
Lake Alexandrina in its natural state is part of an estuary. It was transformed into an artificial fresh water reservoir by building a set of walls at the river mouth completed in 1940. Walls are not natural, and neither is it natural for Lake Alexandrina to be continuously full of fresh water.
The natural state of Lake Alexandrina is that of a coastal lagoon forming part of the river estuary with widely fluctuating salinity levels. Read more
LONG RUNNING SAGA OF FLAWED MDBA PLANS CONTINUES
The latest MDBA plan released this week is an embarrassing waste of time and money when communities are looking for a plan for the future.
“The revised plan continues with the flawed premise that the Authority can find enough fresh water in the basin to keep an estuarine coastal lagoon at the end of the Murray River fresh for most of the time” said Max Rheese, executive director of the Australian Environment Foundation. Read the media release.
MORE NONSENSE IN THE NATIONAL NEWS ON THE MURRAY DARLING
Jennifer Marohasy writes at her website today "This morning our national newspaper, The Australian, has a very misleading story about a farmer Colin Grundy complaining that Murray river water is too salty for irrigation.
In fact Mr Grundy does not live anywhere near the Murray river. He lives right beside the sea.
Mr Grundy lives on Mundoo Island that faces the Murray’s sea mouth that is a narrow outlet to the pounding surf of Encounter Bay and the Southern Ocean.
Reporting on water quality in the Murray River with reference to Mundoo Island is like reporting on water quality in the Parramatta River from Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour, or water quality in the Brisbane River from Fisherman’s Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River.
There is a sea dyke across the Mundoo channel to hold back the tides of the Southern Ocean but last autumn the Southern Ocean did splash over the top of it.
Upstream, in the Murray River proper, salinity levels are at historic lows."
MDBA CHAIR SPEECH TO FARM WRITERS
We are now at the pointy end of the development of a Plan for the Murray-Darling Basin.
Right now, the various and disparate groups who either want to stop the plan dead in its tracks or who want to argue that the plan doesn’t do enough, are jockeying for position as we begin to turn for home.
The States are in there arguing their traditional cases: South Australia threatening High Court action, demanding more water; NSW and Victoria arguing that no more be done because of the inevitable social and economic impact.
And it’s exactly why the Basin Authority needs to exist.
Let me start with 3 simple assertions:
1. The worst possible outcome is that there is no plan - that is, the status quo prevail
2. The risks associated with what we propose in our Draft Plan will be far less than the uncertainty and risks associated with no plan
3. We need to make a start and do it in a way that lets us check how we are travelling as we go along.
Full speech here
The three points may have some merit, but we would still rather a better plan to start with.
WISE WORDS FROM WINE MAN CONCERNING MURRAY MOUTH BARRAGES
South Australian wine connoisseur Phillip White writes about the barrages.
“While the debate about the Murray-Darling reaches anarchic crescendo, there is a persistent and increasingly laudible argument that the barrages be removed from the Murray Mouth. These are a series of weirs which secure the freshwater coming downstream by holding the saltwater of the ocean out. It’s supposed to be like a dam, with the fresh river water flowing over the barrages and into the ocean. Recently, it’s been the other way round, with seawater leaking back through to the dirty polluted puddle of droughtwater within. Diluting it, if the truth be known…
“The history of our estuary has been a long string of unfortunate mistakes…
WHERE DOES THE COALITION STAND ON THE LOWER LAKES?
Following is an email sent to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Coalition MP’s today [April 20th] after AEF members received a belated response on the management of the Lower Lakes on April 19th from Parliamentary Secretary for the MD Basin and S.A. Senator Simon Birmingham.
In his response [see link in email below] to AEF members Senator Birmingham made incorrect assertions that the lakes had a predominantly freshwater history. This is contrary to the views of the former MDBC and long-standing peer-reviewed science.
Senator Birmingham is entitled to his views as expressed, however, AEF now seek assurances from the Coalition as to its position on the mismanagement of the Lower Lakes based on the false premise of a freshwater history.
Hon. Tony Abbott MP
Leader of the Opposition
Dear Mr Abbott,
Response from Senator Birmingham to AEF members on the freshwater history of the Lower Lakes
Having sent information in December to your Parliamentary Secretary for the MD Basin about the false premise that the Lower Lakes and Murray estuary have a freshwater history we received replies yesterday that indicate he has a poor understanding of the history and science on this issue.
This is surprising as AEF sent every federal MP a copy of the peer-reviewed report prepared for AEF by Dr Jennifer Marohasy on February 29th 2012 which clearly demonstrates that not only were the lakes an estuarine environment at the completion of the barrages in 1940, they were primarily estuarine for centuries beforehand. This is acknowledged by the former MDBC. Furthermore, the degradation of the lakes environment from the barrages management after the change to a man-made freshwater history is well documented by independent peer-reviewed studies.
Whatever decisions on other issues in the management of water in the Basin are taken, unless the mismanagement of the Lower Lakes and Murray estuary as an artificial man-made freshwater system is addressed, any new plan for the Basin will fail many environmental sites and basin communities.
We seek your prompt assurance that Senator Birmingham’s reply incorrectly asserting a freshwater history of the lakes does not reflect the position of the Coalition.
Australian Environment Foundation
If you agree with the report prepared for AEF by Dr Jennifer Marohasy on the estuarine history of the Lower Lakes we encourage you to contact Mr Abbott and his water spokesmen using these email addresses.
Tony Abbott Tony.Abbott.MP@aph.gov.au
Barnaby Joyce email@example.com
Simon Birmingham firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Hunt Greg.Hunt.MP@aph.gov.au
SOME MDBA SUBMISSIONS ARE OF VALUE
Thousands of submissions populate the MDBA website and most are campaign submissions of little value with nothing new to say. AEF member John Ibbotson has submitted a thoughtful contribution which notes how little the Lower Lakes, the Murray estuary and their management feature in the current draft plan.
Until these issues are addressed there will never be a perception of equity in water management or use in the Basin.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is "a recipe for a train wreck" says visiting professor
The 2007 Water Act needs urgent reform.
“The essence of the Act is the environment will get what it needs. Science will tell what is required for the environment and people will make do with what's left. It is, in my view, a recipe for a train wreck. That is in fact what I see happening now.”
Professor John Briscoe said the Guide to the Plan was "dead on arrival" because people would never accept the idea the environment had to come first in what had become a "completely managed system". Article in the Adelaide Advertiser
EXPERT SAYS TEAR UP DRAFT MDBA PLAN
A water policy expert wants authorities to tear up the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan because it is worse than existing arrangements. Professor Mike Young said ""In almost every case the existing arrangements are better than the proposed plan."
That may well be, but the existing arrangements do nothing to address the large problem of the mismanagement of the Lower Lakes and the degradation of the natural environment ever since the sea-dykes were completed in 1940.
THE MURRAY MOUTH CONTROVERSY
Last week on ABC TV's Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes criticised journalists and radio hosts who publicised a new report on the Murray mouth without describing the affiliations of its author and publisher. The author was Dr Jennifer Marohasy and the organisation was the Australian Environment Foundation.
Listen to Dr Marohasy being interviewed by Michael Duffy from ABC Counterpoint.
MURRAY FACTS AND FICTIONS
AEF executive director, Max Rheese writes at Quadrant Online of the sea dykes at the bottom of the Murray that no-one wants to talk about.
"The one issue that has received very little public scrutiny in the contentious debate on the Murray Darling basin water reform is the false premise that the Murray River’s terminal Lower Lakes must be maintained as a freshwater environment when the historical record, empirical evidence and much of the peer-reviewed scientific literature demonstrates an estuarine history." Read more.
ABC MEDIA WATCH TELLS AUSTRALIA ABOUT THE JUNK SCIENCE THAT UNDERPINS WATER POLICY
And for this we thank Media Watch.
AEF however are most grateful to the many people who donated online via our website after the show had finished. We appreciate your support for a balanced view on environmental public policy.
For those who missed the program, Media Watch on March 19th featured a segment on the report recently released by AEF on the false narrative that the Murray River’s terminal Lower Lakes have a freshwater history.
Presenter Jonathon Holmes correctly points out the report and AEF state that current policy for maintaining the Lower Lakes as an artificial man-made freshwater system is based on junk science.
He also points out that the information he is using is all on the public record, which is also correct as AEF listed our sponsors on our website, directly provided full and timely responses to all questions posed by Media Watch and clearly stated our objectives in advocating for changes in public policy on our website. Read more about the program and who supports the science in the report.
AEF’s view of the ‘exposé’ by ABC Media Watch.
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Pick a PayPal donation tab on the left to support the Rivers Need Estuaries campaign or AEF's other work on environment policy.
ABC MEDIA WATCH SUSPICIOUS OF OUR RIVERS NEED ESTUARIES CAMPAIGN FUNDING
On March 7th ABC Media Watch contacted AEF and asked a series of questions relating to our funding in general and specifically who was funding the RNE campaign and the report on the environmental history of the Lower Lakes.
With answers duly supplied, they contacted Dr Jennifer Marohasy, the scientist commissioned by AEF to prepare the report debunking the false claims the Lower Lakes have a freshwater history, with even more detailed questions about AEF's and her own funding. Dr Marohasy supplied a detailed response and Media Watch wisely decided they would not run the segment this week.
Little attention was paid to the scientific basis of the report, clearly the interest was in who was funding our work and the report.
If you wish to support continuing independent research and action on Murray Darling issues please use the PayPay donate button on the left of this page as many of you have done to date and which we greatly appreciate.
The report was sent to every politician in federal parliament as well as Victoria, NSW, ACT and South Australia. Obviously the independent report has upset some people who do not like the false narrative of the MD basin on the verge of collapse being challenged.
WHAT DOES THE FORMER MD BASIN COMMISSION SAY ABOUT THE BARRAGES AND THE ESTUARINE HISTORY OF THE LOWER LAKES?
Following the release on February 29th by AEF of the report on the Lower Lakes and Murray estuary dealing with the estuarine history of the Lakes ,we look at what the former MDBC was saying about these same issues a few years ago.
The following are extracts [their text our headings]from the Living Murray website PREVIOUS ESTUARINE ENVIRONMENT AND SEA MOUTH CLOSURE
The River Murray estuary would have naturally offered a wide range of fresh, brackish, saline and hypersaline systems. The winter and spring river flows would have maintained the Mouth opening in most years, although in dry years, and during the low flow periods of the year, there would have been considerable tidal exchange and semi-marine conditions would have prevailed. Mouth closure would have been an occasional possibility under the natural flow regime. The barrages block 7.6 km of previously navigable channels, and prevent ingress of water to Lake Alexandrina. This maintains fresh water in the Lower Lakes and River Murray. Before the barrages were built, tidal effects and the intrusion of seawater were felt up to 250 km upstream from the Mouth. The regulated regime presents conditions that are more conducive to Mouth closure than prior to regulation.
Operation of the barrages has led to significant alteration of the hydrology of the Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth area, and of course, flows at the Mouth are affected by all the regulating structures upstream. Currently there is very restricted flow through Mundoo and Boundary Creek Barrages, even when they are open (Bourman, 2000). Natural rates and patterns of ebb and flow have been constrained. There is now an abrupt interface between the fluvial and tidal reaches, reducing the size of the estuarine component to 11% of its pre-barrage scale (Bourman, 2000).
The decline may also be linked to more frequent constriction of the Mouth that limits tidal exchange and water level variability. The drastic reduction in the area of estuarine conditions following construction and operation of the barrages has greatly reduced the habitat available to waterbirds, which rely on estuarine-type habitats (Jensen et al., 2000).
The Lower Lakes and Coorong region formerly supplied as much as 50% of South Australia's scalefish production. The fishery for some commercial species is said to have declined, particularly for Mulloway and flounder. This has been at least partly attributed to loss of the Lakes as an estuarine area, the reduction in freshwater outflows, and the presence of the barrages as a barrier to fish movement.
In addition to the change in the flow regime due to regulation and diversions upstream, the operation of the barrages has significantly changed the hydrological regime of the Lower Lakes. Lake levels are currently managed to maintain a constant water level of 0.78 m relative to the Australian Height Datum (AHD) where possible, removing much of the natural variability.
HISTORY, SCIENCE AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS MUDDY THE WATERS
Paul Malone writing at the National Times notes two issues were raised by the Media Watch coverage of AEF's campaign and the report authored by Dr Jennifer Marohasy on the Lower Lakes and Murray estuary.
"Now, it seems to me that there are two different issues here. One is the historic, geographic fact: were the lakes estuarine and salty in the pre-barrage past, or were they freshwater?
That should be something scientists can establish. Media Watch acknowledged that one expert, Professor Peter Gell of the University of Ballarat, broadly supported Marohasy."
The other issue is the political question of what should be done now.
For a start - restore the estuary by opening or re-engineering the sea dykes.
HONEST POLITICIANS NEEDED TO CHAMPION REMOVAL OF THE MURRAY'S BARRAGES
Dr Jennifer Marohasy writes at her blogsite: For years now I’ve been writing about the barrages, really sea dykes, that block inflows from the Southern Ocean making the vast shallow coastal lagoons at the end of the Murray River completely dependent on Murray River inflows.
Somewhat disappointingly for me there is not one state or federal politician who will take up this issue of the Lower Lakes and in particular how the current management of Lake Alexandrina as an artificial freshwater oasis is unsustainable. Read more here.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE TELLING SOUTH AUSTRALIANS ABOUT THE MD BASIN DRAFT PLAN?
The Adelaide Advertiser has run “a relentless campaign to fight for the S.A. side of the river”, which is hardly surprising, or a problem, as they have clearly told their readers they are campaigning on the issue with the ‘I Love Murray’ campaign.
But what are South Australians being told? Read more
MURRAY DARLING PLAN BASED ON JUNK SCIENCE SAYS NEW REPORT
A report released on February 29th 2012 by the Australian Environment Foundation undermines the claim by the South Australian government that the Murray River’s terminal Lower Lakes have a freshwater history, a key plank of their demand for an additional 4,000 gigalitres of water under the Murray Darling Basin water reform plan.
The report meticulously details the geomorphologic history of the Lower Lakes and the Murray mouth demonstrating an estuarine environment at the time of the completion of massive sea dykes [barrages] that separate the Lakes from the Southern Ocean.
Acceptance of the science in the report means opening the sea dykes and letting the tide in to restore the natural estuarine environment.
Read the media release.
WATER MUST MIX IN LOWER LAKES SAYS NEW MURRAY DARLING REPORT
In an article in the Adelaide Advertiser political reporter Lauren Novak highlights an AEF report to be released next week which shows the current MDBA plan is based on the false premise that the Lower Lakes of South Australia had a freshwater history.
SEA WILL SAVE THE MURRAY RIVER'S MOUTH
This article by Dr Jennifer Marohasy published in The Australian highlights the key issue missing from the current draft MDBA plan - addressing the false premise that the Lower Lakes must be maintained as an artificial, man-made freshwater lake system.
"Later this year the government will release a plan that is supposed to place the Murray-Darling on a sustainable environmental footing, and already $10 billion has been set aside for the plan's implementation. But if the guide released last year gives any indication of what to expect, then it will do nothing to restore that part of the system most affected by agriculture and most in need of saving: the Lower Lakes and Murray mouth, once the Murray River's estuary.
The estuary was destroyed when 7.6km of concrete barrages were built across the bottom of the Murray in the 1930s. If nothing is done about this enormous structure there is no guarantee water will get to the Murray's mouth even if South Australia gets the 4000 gigalitres it is demanding as part of the water reform."
SWAN HILL MEETING TELLS MDBA 'REMOVE THE BARRAGES IN THE LOWER LAKES'
Another in the series of community consultation meetings was held in Swan Hill, Victoria on February 22nd attended by Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie and Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh who both represent basin communities.
The meeting was informative with the MDBA doing its best to answer queries from those attending. AEF executive director Max Rheese made the following statement to the meeting "A plan cannot succeed until the current assumptions about the Lower Lakes and Murray estuary as a freshwater environment which is used as a key driver of the plan are either substantiated or abandoned."
Followed by the question to MDBA chair Craig Knowles "Will the MDBA commit to thorough analysis of all relevant science in regard to the Lower Lakes."
The question was put because in the previous week at senate estimates committee hearings a senator asked an MDBA official "If a peer reviewed scientific report was available that demonstrated the Lower Lakes over the last few millennia has been estuarine, would this change the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's views on the continuing management of the Lower Lakes as a freshwater system?" The reply was "Probably not."
The AEF in fact has such a report which has just been completed and will be sent to the MDBA following assurances by Craig Knowles that the MDBA was interested in all scientific studies on this issue.
Numerous speakers from the community spoke against the retention of the barrages in the Lower Lakes which maintain an artificial freshwater environment in the lakes by preventing the natural tidal flows from the Southern Ocean entering the lakes.
More than one speaker highlighted the enormous evaporation loss of freshwater from Lake Alexandrina of between 800GL and 1000GL per year compared to Adelaide's use of 200GL per year from the Murray River.
Many thanks to all those at the meeting who signed the AEF petition calling for changes to the operation of the barrages.
MILDURA MDBA MEETING HEAR FROM ANGRY GRAPE GROWERS AND TONY BURKE
Around 250 people attended the MDBA meeting held in Mildura on February 10th which was well down on expectations. Approximately 800 chairs spread over several rooms in the venue had been readied for the turnout.
Growers were crititcal of the timing of the meeting during the harvest.
The generally well-behaved audience became agitated in support of one speaker would not give up the microphone until his questions had been answered. The facilitator turned off the speakers microphone - so he just raised his voice until Environment Minister, Tony Burke wisely intervened to take his question.
Over a hundred people added their signatures to the Rivers Need Estuaries campaign petition prior to the start of the meeting.
HOW MUCH WATER IS ENOUGH FOR THE MURRAY?
AEF member David Leyonhjelm writing in several rural newspapers poses the question and points out the escalating demands of different groups over the last few years from 1500GL to demands now of over 4000GL to be returned to the Lower Lakes.
RIVERS NEED ESTUARIES PETITION STRONGLY ENDORSED AT DENILIQUIN MDBA MEETING
The RNE campaign petition's first public airing was at the Deniliquin MDBA meeting on Friday December 16th.
Two 50 metre long lines of people queued to sign the petition before entering the Deniliquin Racecourse for the meeting with federal environment minister Tony Burke and MDBA chairman Craig Knowles.
1350 people of an estimated 3000 attendees signed one of the six petitions operating simultaneously until organisers ran out of petition forms.
DENILIQUIN CLOSES DOWN FOR MDBA MEETING
3000 people attended the MDBA meeting in Deniliquin on December 16th out of a local population of around 10,000. Speakers gave compelling accounts of how the draft plan, if implemented in its current form, would have a devastating effect on the Deniliquin community. The crowd was a very representative cross-section of the community with teenagers in school uniform, tradies in work gear, business owners and their staff, farmers and retirees.
The standout speech of the meeting was not from a politician or a farmer, but from Finley High School principal Bernie Roebuck.
MEETING UNANIMOUSLY REJECTS THE MDBA PLAN IN ITS CURRENT FORM
Everyone present rose to their feet at the Deniliquin meeting to support the meeting resolution to reject the MDBA plan in its current form.
TALKING TURKEY, BUT NOT ABOUT THE BARRAGES
Columnist for The LandJennifer Marohasy says many organisations involved in the Murray Darling basin issue are acting like turkeys voting for Christmas instead of drawing a line in the sand to represent their constituents. Read more
THE GREAT URBAN MYTH: THE MURRAY RIVER IS DYING
If it is accepted that the Millennium Drought and the floods that swept it away are a manifestation of the environment that we live in, and that the corresponding recovery is a part of the natural cycle, it becomes difficult to reconcile that reality with the urban myth the Murray is dying and MD Basin water is poorly managed and allocated.
Undoubtedly management could be improved, particularly the use of environmental water and the egregious management of the Lower Lakes.
Professor John Briscoe of Harvard University who was invited to participate on the MDBA High-Level External Review Panel noted in his submission into the senate inquiry on the Water Act 2007:
“The environmental vote was important in the election of 2007. After seven years of drought environmental conditions were poor, not least in the Murray Darling Basin. The electoral arithmetic of Australia is such that most of the electorate live in the coastal cities. Most city dwellers have both little knowledge of the land and water environment of the world’s driest continent, and a paternalistic and dim view of farmers and agriculture.
He who could capture the environmental vote would strongly improve his chances in the election. Most environmental minded voters were Labor. If the Liberal Party were to woo some away it had to do something dramatic. The Water Act of 2007 was one of the dramatic efforts.”
Embedded in that analysis is one of the current drivers of the flawed draft MDBA plan – politics.It is noteworthy in this last drought that the Murray did not run dry, as has previously been the case and the Living Murray icon site, the Barmah-Milliewa forest received the largest environmental watering event ever – in the middle of the extended drought.
During much of the drought, farmers received little or no allocations of water, as water is allocated to agriculture only when it is available.
The drought was not without harsh consequences for basin communities and the environment, this however is the nature of drought and our environment. Many urban residents, inflamed by alarmist predictions about the state of the basin environment seek to lay blame for these consequences looking only through the prism of unattached and uninformed perspectives.
One such perspective not lost on basin residents is that there will never be enough water available in the basin to stop adverse impacts of drought.
If we are to understand the real state of the environment, we need to focus on the fundamentals. And we need to look at realities, not myths.
CAMPAIGN FOR MORE MARINE PROTECTED AREAS HAS NO MERIT
The proposals for additional vast Marine Protected Areas in Australian waters to protect marine biodiversity are a solution in search of a problem.
The federal environment minister Tony Burke is currently reviewing proposals seeking to declare additional Marine Protected Areas in four regions around Australia. The largest is the Coral Sea MPA encompassing one million square kilometres. The proposals include ‘no-take’ recommendations, banning all fishing in some regions.
Australia already has 25% of the world’s Marine Protected Areas. If adopted, these proposals would see Australia unilaterally taking the international burden for marine protection upon itself with about half of the world’s total Marine Protected Area in Australian waters.
In Australia no marine species is threatened with extinction from fishing, nor has any loss of marine biodiversity from commercial fishing ever been documented. The proposals are to ‘protect’ vast areas already in pristine condition in case a yet to be determined problem arises sometime in the future.
You may ask: But surely it is a good idea to provide more protection to marine areas when we ‘know’ the oceans are over-fished?
Having most of the world’s Marine Protected Area where it is unneeded does nothing to preserve global marine biodiversity.
70% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported. All of that is imported from poorly regulated over-exploited fisheries. Despite having the third largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world and highly productive waters, Australia’s seafood harvest is the lowest of any maritime nation. Virtually shutting down our fishing industry with these proposals will only increase the environmental impact elsewhere.
• At present, no need for or benefit from, proposed Marine Protected Areas has been shown to exist.
• Publicly available data and empirical evidence categorically refutes the need to reduce Australia’s harvest of seafood.
• More Marine Protected Areas in Australian waters will not protect global marine biodiversity.
• Reducing our already low seafood harvest simply increases environmental impact elsewhere through increased imports from poorly managed fisheries.
• Proposals for more Marine Protected Areas contradict the definition of sustainability.
• Marine Protected Areas cannot protect the selected areas from climate change, natural or otherwise.
Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone and seafood harvest
NEW GOVT. REPORT SHOWS 'NO-TAKE' ZONES IN MARINE PARKS NOT NECESSARY
The release of a government report showed that more than 90 per cent of fish stocks are sustainable was used to argue that last month's gazetting of a string of marine parks around the country was unnecessary.
The 420-page federal government report, released in Mackay, North Queensland, by Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig, found that of 111 types of fish where stocks were examined, only two were over-fished, while a further three were at risk.
The case for 'no-take' provisions in the MPA declarations is shown to be without merit.
40% OF AUSTRALIA'S EEZ NOW IN MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
Trixie Maddon, CEO of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association writes of the declaration of the proposed MPA's:
By the end of 2012 the Federal Government aims to introduce an extensive marine reserves network in Commonwealth marine areas – in general terms this means from 3 nautical miles (nm) to 200nm from the coast. The states and the Northern Territory will have responsibility for marine areas within 3nm of the coast. The Commonwealth already manages 26 marine reserves (14 in the already established South East Marine Reserve Network) as well as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The proposed networks would add more than 2.3 million square kilometres to the existing national system of Commonwealth marine reserves, taking its overall size to some 3.1 million square kilometres. This would result in nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (not including Antarctic) being covered by marine reserves.
It will also mean that Australia would have 40% of the world’s MPAs. Industry proposals for the marine reserves network, if adopted, would result in Australia having 37% of the world’s MPAs, but with significantly reduced impact on the fishing industry now and into the future.
SIGN THE PETITION AND SUPPORT THE RALLY FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHING - NOT LOCK-OUTS!
Have your say on the future of Coral Sea fishing and our acknowledged sustainable fishery. More details here.
SUPPORT THE VOICE YOUR CHOICE CAMPAIGN
Kristina Georges is committed to a sustainable seafood industry for Australia and is campaigning against the announced Marine Protected Areas. As she says "Scientists have said that it’s not fishing that is putting the Coral Sea at risk and even Green groups acknowledge this. The proposed new network of marine parks has nothing to do with science but everything to do with appeasing green groups".
Sign the petition at the Voice Your Choice website.
FINAL CONSULTATION ON MPA'S NOW OPEN
Minister Tony Burke announced the start of the final consultation period for the new Marine Protected Areas on July 11th. The consultation period remains open until September 10th.
This is the last formal opportunity to have a say on the MPA proposals.
WWF DOES NOT KNOW HOW GLOBAL FISHERIES WORK
While talking of a global fishing crisis WWF advocates for huge new marine reserves in under utilised Australian waters that will further shift our demand for seafood to heavily exploited fisheries overseas that have much lower environmental standards.
How can this possibly be environmentally responsible advocacy?
A LONG LINE TO NOWHERE
The fishing industry has become the whipping boy in the campaign for more marine reserves with no documentation of any threat posed by fishing. During this ABC Radio National interview campaigners admit fishing has had no impact on the Coral Sea, while Professor Bob Kearney simply states the facts.
REEF SYMPOSIUM DELIVERS A SEA OF ALARMIST REPORTS FROM A COMPLIANT MEDIA
The 12th International Symposium on Coral Reefs attended by 2500 delegates from around the world from July 9th - 13th delivered a week of alarmist reports from a compliant media who apparently never thought to ask a question which just might challenge the 'consensus of experts'.
The ABC's Conor Duffy, amongst others, filed report after report offering a one-sided view of the state of coral reefs. It appears it never occurred to him or anyone else in the media that some of the views expressed by experts could possibly be open to challenge.
Everything from 'disastrous' bleaching of the reef, overfishing, pollution and climate change were paraded for a weekwithout a single challenging view offered to viewers.
'EXPERTS' THINK PROTECTION OF THE REEF WILL SAVE IT FROM CLIMATE CHANGE
'Experts' continue to convey the misleading impression that drawing lines on a map defining a Marine Protected Area will somehow protect coral reefs and marine life from potential [but not yet substantiated] threats from climate change.
We would like to see how that works.
The Pew Environment Group thinks that protection of the Coral Sea via marine reserves will offer an "insurance policy" for reefs and marine biodiversity by building resilience to climate change. How does that resilience occur?
U.S. GREEN GROUP ADMITS TARGETING AUSTRALIA FOR FISHING BANS
THE US-based anti-fishing organisation, the Pew Environment Group has admitted it pressured the Australian Government to lock anglers out of vast areas of the Coral Sea but would not take the same action in American waters because it would harm the US economy and disadvantage local fishermen.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE CONTRARY TO THE GREEN PROPHETS OF DOOM AND GLOOM ON MARINE PARKS
Professor of Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington Ray Hilborn on his recent visit to Australia said Commonwealth and State government data shows fish stocks are improving not declining. Professor Hilborn also stated that more Marine Parks are not essential to ensuring the sustainability of Australia's fisheries.
Government data underpins the AEF's position on Australia's healthy fish stocks, but the government is banning fishing in many parts of the huge new marine reserves without telling anyone which fish species or marine biodiversity is under threat!
SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THE REASONING FOR NEW MARINE PARKS
"It’s worth noting that our fisheries management stands proud in a world where out-of-control overfishing or stock collapses seem to be everyday events. So you have to ask yourself why the Pew Environment Foundation isn’t directing its financial clout towards those places where fisheries management has been sadly lacking and local stock depletion is dire, rather than here where we are constantly striving for sustainability"says Mike Roennfeldt in The West Australian.
Meanwhile David Wroe in The Sydney Morning Herald draws attention to the fact the government has picked yet another unnecesary fight with a vital section of our food producers and rural communities.
BURKE ANNOUNCES NEW MARINE PARKS BUT NOT WHY WE NEED THEM
Environment minister Tony Burke was busy telling anyone who would listen on June 14th that he was taking the biggest conservation step in Australia’s history by declaring huge new marine reserves right around Australia.
Apart from protecting some areas from oil and gas exploration he failed to tell us why our pristine waters needed further protection that jeopardises our ability to sustainably harvest seafood. Worse was the fact that no journalist had the brains to ask him what the documented threats to our marine biodiversity were that required such drastic closures of our fisheries.
Minister Burke hopes that the taxpayer funded compensation to virtually close down a productive primary industry that has a major role in feeding Australians will cost about $100 million.
Someone should tell him he’s dreaming. The much smaller closure of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has so far cost $220 million, but the fact is he does not know because he has not done the work or a cost-benefit analysis.
The Australian Marine Alliance has however undertaken a cost-benefit analysis which shows a huge financial cost for no additional environmental benefit.
And does the announcement conform with the Prime Minister's vision for Australia's food superpower status?
REPORT ON MARINE AREAS & FISHERIES EXPOSES HYPOCRISY OF CAMPAIGNS FOR MORE MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
May 23rd 2012
The Australian Environment Foundation today released a report written by marine biologist Dr Walter Starck which highlights there is no demonstrated need for further large marine protected areas in Australian waters.
The current campaign for marine protection and fishing bans ignores the fact Australia has more marine park area than the rest of the world combined and that no fish species or marine biodiversity in Australian waters is threatened by fishing.
The campaign is deceitful because it does not inform Australians that closures of large areas to fishing will add pressure to over exploited Asian fisheries, harming global fish stocks, while decreasing the sustainable harvest of Australia’s vastly under utilised fisheries.
TAKING MARINE PROTECTION TOO FAR
Federal environment minister Tony Burke featured in news reports over the Queens Birthday weekend talking of huge increases to the marine park network in Australian waters.
Australia already leads the world in marine protected area with more area set aside for conservation than the rest of the world combined, but proposals to double this protection are going too far, turning the notion of sustainability on its head.
The concept of sustainability provides for the needs of the present generation while ensuring future generations will also be provided for.
These proposals further reduce our ability to meet our needs while endeavouring to protect marine biodiversity from a yet to be determined future threat.
Read the media release on the proposals.
REEF THREATENED BY DO-GOODING, NOT FISHING AND MINING
Former Queensland Labor Treasurer Keith DeLacy writing in The Australian about the AEF's report on Marine Protected Areas says that claims of widespread over-fishing at our levels of harvest are the height of absurdity.
"There is absolutely no scientific evidence of threatened marine species, population collapses or effects on marine biodiversity from fishing. Almost without exception, away from the coastal and tourist influences, the Great Barrier Reef is pristine, rarely visited and home to the same number of fish species today as at first human settlement."
MARINE CAMPAIGNS FORCE RELIANCE ON SUSPECT SEAFOOD IMPORTS
Campaigns for huge new Marine Protected Areas in Australian waters up to about half of the total global area protected, complete with proposals for 'no-take' areas, force more reliance on suspect seafood imports.
We already import 70% of the seafood consumed in Australia all of it from less well managed fisheries and as this reportshows, increasing imports will place more Australians at risk.
With the world's third largest fishery and the smallest harvest of seafood Australia should be leading the way in global marine conservation by lessening our environmental impact on overseas fisheries and by increasing our sustainable yield from our highly regulated fisheries, not shutting them down.
SUPPORT RATIONAL GLOBAL MARINE CONSERVATION BY JOINING AEF OR DONATING TO OUR MARINE CAMPAIGN.
Download a membership form or donate via the bottom PayPal button on the left.
ARTICLES ON MPA’s, FISHERIES AND MARINE ENVIRONMENT
The Coral Sea today
The Coral Sea without Marine Protected Area status.
Pristine and with abundant marine species of all types.
THE UNSUPPORTABLE CASE FOR CORAL SEA MARINE PARK 'NO-TAKE' ZONES
Sea Change: Tim Wintons view from the deep.
Accomplished author and Western Australian resident Tim Winton has written a personal and evocative essay, ‘Sea Change’, in Good Weekend magazine on April 14th ‘for all Australians who want a better future for our common underwater heritage’ according to WWF who have posted the article on their website. Winton is a patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society and undoubtedly loves the sea.
The article, while rich in personal experiences with the sea, is devoid of evidence that would support a case for massive new Marine Protected Areas, which the federal Environment Minister Tony Burke is currently considering and being urged along by Winton.
Advocating for change to environmental policy must be supported by facts and evidence says AEF executive director Max Rheese in this article published at OnLine Opinion.
BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
The expected announcement by federal environment minister Tony Burke to create a 1 million square kilometre Marine Protected Area in the Coral Sea as a 'no-take' zone thereby banning all fishing would be environmentally irresponsible says AEF.
A cursory examination of publicly available data clearly shows Australian fishery harvest is the most environmentally friendly in the world with harvests of less than 1% of recognised sustainable yields from the world's largest per capita fishery.
There is no demonstrated environmental need to close the Coral Sea. Australia needs to increase its sustainable harvest of seafood to remove the burden Australian consumers are placing on heavily exploited overseas fisheries. 70% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported from fisheries that do not have the same standard of environmental management as Australia.
MARINE PARK SCALES BACK FISHING
AN unwritten agreement and self-regulation has long governed the commercial arrangements at Osprey Reef, an underwater paradise about 200 nautical miles north of Cairns in the Coral Sea writes Graham Lloyd in The Australian.
But will a marine park in the pristine Coral Sea improve environmental outcomes, or increase fishing pressure on unregulated overseas fisheries?
NO-GO SCAREMONGERS 'FISHING FOR FUNDS'
Relentless anti-fishing campaigns have misled consumers about the good health of Australian fish stocks, a leading US marine scientist said yesterday.
Ray Hilborn is a hired gun for a fishing industry feeling the heat from demands for no-go marine parks and consumer advice scorecards that show which fish not to eat. He is also an acknowledged world expert on global fish stocks. And when it comes to catching fish and what's good for the plate, Dr Hilborn and environmental groups such as Australian Marine Conservatory are oceans apart.
Dr Hilborn, professor of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the Univiersity of Washington published a report which questions the basis for expanding Marine Protected Areas in Australian waters.
"The perception of the majority of Australians of the sustainability of Australian seafood is not aligned with reality. Public perception has been distorted, primarily by numerous NGOs and others who benefit from projecting apprehension in seafood consumers. These NGOs are out of touch with recent global developments and in denial of fisheries management outcomes in Australia. Their distortion of reality has been based on misrepresentation of overseas examples of inadequate fisheries management to falsely claim gloom and doom for Australia’s fisheries and their impacts. The resulting anti-fishing rhetoric has falsely demonized fishing and led to ill-directed calls for more restrictions, particularly in areas that are closed to fishing and then called ‘protected’."