ROCK SHELF PLUNDERED
By SAMANTHA HEALY
TOURISTS are destroying the Tweed Coast's "Garden of Eden" in a selfish search of shellfish, a marine expert claimed yesterday.
Hastings Point-based marine biologist Ted Brambleby said the problem of "looters" during the tourist season had exploded, with large groups descending on the Tweed Coast village's rocky shores in search of all types of sea creatures to be used as food.
"People have been coming down here with screwdrivers and crowbars and breaking into corals and sponges to get at the sea urchins," Mr Brambleby said.
"Visitors are destroying the rocky shores virtually every day and no-one is stopping them.
"It's outright looting from an environment that can't speak out."
When the Daily News went to the Hastings Point headland yesterday several people were spotted collecting shellfish, using tools such as screwdrivers and knives to remove the creatures from the rocks.
"There is nothing left, they've just pilfered everything. Before it was a Garden of Eden," Mr Brambleby said.
Black-lipped oysters, green turban snails, welks, brown tritons, sea urchins and perriwinkles are the most likely targets according to Mr Brambleby with shells seen left on bins and on BBQ tops.
"They know exactly what and where to look for them," Mr Brambleby said.
"The rocky shore can't support this kind of devastation every year - the before and after effect is savage."
Despite Mr Brambleby's concerns over these activities, it is not illegal for visitors to collect shellfish from the coastline.
A sign in the Hastings Point headland car park outlines the size and bag limits for anyone wanting to pick up shellfish.
A NSW Fisheries spokeswoman said yesterday was the first they had heard any concerns over the amount of shellfish being collected at Hastings Point.
However, she said officers would increase patrols in the area to improve compliance rates.
"We need people to call us if they see any illegal activity," the spokeswoman said.
"We do regular patrols in that area and have signs erected to advise people of size, bag limits and fishing licences. We need to catch them in the act."
Mr Brambleby said it was important to protect the rocky shores at Hastings Point.
"This place is the most pristine, highly diverse and easily accessible rocky shore from Stradbroke Island to Broken Head," Mr Brambleby said.
"It's like a free-for-all grocery shop for these people and it has to stop."