New dolphin challenge
PREMIER Anna Bligh has been challenged to visit Tin Can Bay and see for herself the dolphin-feeding experience her government wants to ban.
Fishing industry environmental consultant Joe McLeod says she should bring her husband with her, because of his senior policy role in the bureaucracy involved, the Department of Environment and Resource Management.
Mr McLeod says public involvement in a review of dolphin-feeding laws has been tainted by a biased and dishonest "Information Booklet," published by DERM to guide public discussion.
Misleading information in the booklet included a false portrayal of the feeding regime as "unauthorised".
Yet feeding, with strict safeguards, had been authorised in 2006 in a still-binding contract.
Attempts to ignore it showed DERM could not be trusted to run an unbiased review, Mr McLeod said.
Supporters of the dolphin-feeding program have rejected all three options raised by the State Government for new laws governing the program.
The government "Information Booklet" was created to guide public participation in drafting new rules.
It says a change, to allow dolphin feeding only for the lifetime of dolphins currently involved, is desirable because it "authorises the current dolphin-feeding program at Tin Can Bay, which cannot be permitted under current legislation as it is outside a marine park".
Mr McLeod says the misleading suggestion that the current program is unauthorised may sway environmental groups unaware of the truth of the situation and negatively bias their participation in the review.
The information booklet also falsely describes the program as "new" and therefore vulnerable to being "perceived as contrary to the National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching", even though it has been going on for many years.
Despite the fact that this apparently favoured option would see feeding cease on the death of individual dolphins now involved, Acting Environment Minister Rachel Nolan says the government will not "ban" feeding.
Option two, which would allow "limited recruitment" of other dolphins to allow the program to continue, is said to have "no advantages", despite its obvious advantages to Tin Can Bay and to the promotion of wildlife conservation.
Option three, to "leave as is", would "continue the current situation", which is described as "unauthorised under legislation".
Mr McLeod says conservation and business interests in Tin Can Bay want to see an "option four", which would allow limited recruitment, as in option two, but would recognise its advantages and the fact that it is currently legalised under a specific contract agreed to by the government in 2006.