Bay needs its dolphins
THE Queensland Government ducked for cover over its public statements on a long-planned dolphin-feeding ban at Tin Can Bay.
Responding to a public and business outcry, acting Environment Minister Rachel Nolan said: "There are no plans to ban public dolphin feeding."
However, her latest statement contradicts her own department's discussion paper on the subject.
The discussion paper is part of public consultation on the government's Marine Mammal Legislation Review, which may also impact heavily on fishing and whale watching industries.
The discussion paper expressed clear favouritism for a proposal that would authorise feeding of "specific individuals" only, saying this would "by definition - cease the (dolphin feeding) program once those individuals are gone".
Other feeding-friendly options were dismissed as offering "no advantages".
Tin Can Bay's business community has rushed to the defence of the township's widely loved and economically crucial dolphin-feeding institution.
Bay tourism operator, chamber of commerce representative and Gympie Cooloola Tourism board member Symon Duggan blasted the State Government's often-expressed and long-term agenda to ban public dolphin feeding at Norman Point.
"They should be supporting it and making it better and safer," he told The Gympie Times.
"I think this (a ban on feeding) would directly and indirectly wreck at least 20 to 25 businesses in Tin Can Bay and a dozen at Rainbow Beach, including the Dolphin Ferry and the backpackers resorts.
"I don't know how many jobs it would affect, but I think scores of jobs would go," he said.
"If this happened at Monkey Mia in Western Australia, all hell would break loose.
"It's one of the most important tourist attractions we have on the whole Cooloola Coast."
Mr Duggan said that with business, work and holidays affecting the availability of other chamber executives, he felt he had a responsibility to speak out.
"We've got a lot of people living here now.
"In an area which is not economically brilliant, they want to hit it again.
"They've already ripped the guts out of the fishing industry, now they want to take the guts out of the town.
"Dolphins are part of the whole promotion of Tin Can Bay. The local shopping centre is named after them, for goodness sake," he said.
Mr Duggan, who operates both the Bay's 36-room Sleepy Lagoon Hotel/Motel and Imbil's Railway Hotel, said: "Losing this would be like losing the Rattler."
Bay businesses were as dependent on dolphin tourism as many Mary Valley businesses were on the Mary Valley Heritage Rail, he said.