Coalition fisheries plan reveals commonsense policy

THE NSW Coalition has released an interesting and relatively visionary plan for recreational fishing if it wins office at next month’s election. Key aspects of the policy announced today include reducing commercial effort via buy-outs, a moderate, scientifically based stance on marine parks and a fairly proactive attitude towards developing recreational fishing opportunities for the state’s 1 million anglers.

Read the full details of the Liberal/National fishing policy HERE.

Fisho today interviewed Shadow Fisheries Minister Duncan Gay. In a wide ranging discussion, we covered a range of areas which anglers will no doubt want to consider in the lead-up to the election, due to be held on March 26.

In what will be widely regarded as a positive move, Mr Gay said he would be supported in his role as fisheries minister by a parliamentary secretary dedicated to looking after the recreational sector. While Mr Gay would not disclose further details, Fisho understands that this parliamentary secretary will be an experienced parliamentarian with extensive knowledge of, and interest in, recreational angling.

Mr Gay also said that he would decentralise the current Industry and Investment department and form a separate and autonomous fisheries department. Disgraced former fisheries minister Ian Macdonald previously amalgamated fisheries into NSW I&I, a move that has since been widely criticised.

The successful fishing licence and trust scheme, implemented by Labor’s Eddie Obeid almost a decade ago, would be retained by a Coalition Government, with the existing system of Recreational Fishing Havens to be maintained and possibly enhanced by a $16 million plan to buy out commercial fishing effort in NSW. This money would be on top of funds raised by the licence scheme, Mr Gay said.

Mr gay said he would establish committees to advise him on recreational fishing issues. Members of these committees would be elected, not appointed as is currently the case with the oft-criticised ACORF.

The six existing marine parks in NSW would be continued in NSW under a Coalition government, but Mr Gay said he would instigate audits and scientific reviews to assess the efficiency of sanctuary zones in those parks, with particular reference to allowing appropriate recreational fishing activities in zones which are currently closed to all fishing.

He would also assess if marine parks in NSW should be managed by the environment department, or by fisheries. Mr Gay said his personal opinion was that the fisheries department was the appropriate organization to look after marine parks.

Mr Gay made it clear that the Coalition supported sensible and scientifically valid protection of the marine environment but said he wanted to encourage well-managed angling as well. “As well as getting a full scientific assessment of our marine parks, how they work and how they can work better, I’m pretty keen on things like creating artificial reefs,” he said.

Mr Gay rejected criticism of the Coalition’s fisheries policy as being loaded with “escape clauses”, saying that he was sure that NSW’s anglers would want him to make decisions based on scientific evidence. “Some people out there want us to open up sanctuary zones the day after the election. That’s not going to happen. We want to do the right thing, to make the right decisions, and that means we need to do the proper scientific research.”

He said that the entire shadow Cabinet was fully supportive of the fisheries policies released today, and told Fisho that Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell was committed to ensuring angling issues were a priority if he wins office on March 26.

Fisho will detail fisheries policies from the Labor Party as soon as we get them. Fisheries Minister Steve Whan did not return our emails today.

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