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Tour operator shuns taking Greens senators to Barrier Reef over fears of ‘bad publicity’
A tour operator in Cairns has refused to take Greens senators to view coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef because negative publicity would be detrimental to the local tourism industry.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale and senator Larissa Waters announced a suite of election policies in Cairns last week that were aimed at protecting the reef, including a transition away from fossil fuels.
The President of the Cairns Professional Fishing Association and local charter boat operator, Daniel McCarthy, told 612 ABC Brisbane he had been asked to take the Greens senators and a scientist to specifically see areas where the reef had been bleached.
McCarthy (pictured above) said the Greens' visit would inadvertently create bad publicity for the tourism sector.
McCarthy stated “I made if perfectly clear that I wouldn't have any part of a day on the reef that was going to further build this bloody hysteria story that the reef is dead and all these outlandish claims that is doing a massive amount of damage to the reef's reputation and to the tourism industry's reputation around the globe.
"That reputation is often fed by ... by the Greens or radical green groups around the country (who) have no qualms about at all about fudging the truth to a great extent and they don't care who gets hurt on the way."
McCarthy, who is also a former Senate candidate for the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party, said the reality was although there was some bleaching on some reefs, most of that was coming back.
He stated "I've been here for 30 years - we've lived through plenty of these types of things, where it's a cyclone that's denigrated the reef apparently - the media's picture of it is 'the world's ending, the reef's gone'.
"If we believed all that - the reef's gone so many times over it's not funny … but it's generally not true.
"Here in north Queensland, our regional economy suffers severely because of the negative press and that is a major problem and that is what we need to stop.
"It was on that basis I refused to take them (the Greens senators) out - I'm not going to feed into that agenda."
Mr McCarthy said a comment by Sir David Attenborough in a recent BBC documentary that the reef was in "grave danger" had been blown out of proportion by the "negative press".
He added “people will pick up on one line and they will run away with it and blow it out of proportion.” McCarthy stated that over several decades he had witnessed areas that had been wiped out by cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish and bleaching, adding "you go back to those areas in a couple of years' time and they are more amazing then they were before.
"It's like a bushfire going through clearing out the old and letting the new stuff come through.
"It's a living, rejuvenating organism and the scientists will tell you how it has come to be how it is — its layers die off, new layers grow on top — and that's how it builds up."
He said local tourism operators and booking agents were "snowed under" with people saying they wanted to cancel their trips to the region because media reports had made them believe there was no reef left.
However, he said people who had ending up visiting the reef always said it exceeded their expectations and "looked like a postcard".
"Is it 100% perfect, no - and it probably never has been.”
Senator Waters said she and Senator Di Natale visited several reef sites with another tour operator on Thursday, with scientist Professor Justin Marshall, the head of CoralWatch, on board.
She said the tour included seeing a mixture of healthy and bleached coral.
Senator Waters stated "I've met with a lot of them (scientists) in the last few weeks, but until you see it with your own eyes, you can't really fathom what the devastation can be like.”
She added “when people like David Attenborough are saying it might be gone in decades - that's not a man who is prone to exaggeration - and he has no vested interest in talking up the damage.
"I feel for the tourism operators because the don't want customers to cancel their trips because they think there's nothing left to see, but this problem won't go away by ignoring it."
14th December 2015 - TOURISM LEADERS WELCOME PARIS AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
31st May 2015 - NORTH QUEENSLAND TOURISM WORKS TO PROTECT GREAT BARRIER REEF
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