Friday, April 17, 2009

Ella Bay in the news: Marine conservationists call for government to stop resort development at Ella Bay

Marine conservationists call for government to stop resort development at Ella Bay
ABC News 16 Apr 09

Conservationists fighting to protect marine turtles in Ella Bay continue to object to a multi-billion dollar urban development that would potentially disrupt wildlife in a World Heritage National Park.

Two months ago the discovery of nearly fifty marine turtles' nesting sites in and around Ella Bay raised concerns among environmental organisations.

Ella Bay is a wilderness surrounded by World Heritage Wet Tropics National Park and World Heritage Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. (ABC: Maria Nguyen)

The findings called for the federal government to step in and reconsider the negative impact on the marine environment if the proposed development of Satori Resorts goes ahead.

Organisations like Marine Wildlife Australia call the project 'environmentally damaging' to not only marine turtles but the diverse ecological communities that exist in the region.

The turtle survey, carried out by locals and backed by some of North Queensland's largest environmental organisations, shines light on several vulnerable turtle species that they claim the developer previously ignored.

Satori, however, has retorted to these claims, saying the new findings are not significant.

CEO Rodney Lamb says his company's own environmental experts see Ella Bay as an unimportant nesting site when compared to offshore sites and insists the government not to act on the new information.

That sentiment is not shared by Russell Constable, one of the locals who conducted the survey.

"I believe that any populations of listed vulnerable species are important and the turtles at Ella Bay need to be properly assessed," says Constable.

"FRC Environmental is employed as a consultant by the developer to assess the situation regarding marine turtles.

"They are paid money to support Satori's wish to build a large urban development at Ella Bay."

Blueprint depictions of a stinger net and boat traffic on the foreshore of Ella Bay, says Constable, mean there will be a lot of human interference with turtle breeding activity.

North Queensland Conservation Council agrees.

"The new information on marine turtle nesting in the Ella Bay area ... proves the poor quality and incomplete nature of past information provided by the proponent of this proposed development," NQCC writes in their letter to Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

NQCC also claims Satori has not considered its development's impact on other marine species.

They say snub-nosed and humpback dolphins have been sighted less than five kilometers from the proposed resort.

Blanche Danastas from Marine Wildlife Australia says not only turtles and dolphins but the endangered dugongs have also been documented to inhabit the waters off of Ella Bay.

"The best use for this land is conservation, not development," says Cairns and Far North Environment Centre president Ellie Bock, suggesting that the site be used instead for low-impact recreation.

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