Comment: Anglers reject Sydney lock-out plan

Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment

WITH the consultation period winding up it’s becoming more evident that this entire assessment is leading to more closures for recreational fishers by stealth under the guise of pseudo-science and supposed protection of biodiversity.

Media personalities such as Professor Emma Johnson recently reinforced this by saying: “Like the majority of recreational fishers in NSW, I think that some areas should be closed to fishing”. What the Professor fails to see is much of our coastline and Sydney Harbour is already locked up and closed, and “the majority of recreational fishers in NSW” do not want pointless restrictions on fishing access in waters already well protected and heavily regulated.

Recreational anglers should have one clear message to the Marine Estate Management Authority and that is simple: Don’t lock us out of any marine reserves unless there is a sound scientific reason to do so.

Recreational anglers will oppose any proposal to exclude recreational fishing unless there is clear scientific evidence to demonstrate that such activity poses an unacceptable risk to the conservation objectives of that Marine Reserve, and that the exclusion of recreational fishing is the only way to reduce that threat.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW is once again concerned the NSW Government will penalise recreational anglers, yet will ignore other challenges in abating the real threats to biodiversity; threats that will cost billions of dollars to fix, so they sweep these real threats under the carpet.

The assessment process will also investigate 11 pre-identified sites and four more proposed aquatic reserves and several other sites suggested by the community. Specific sites being considered during the assessment are:

* Chowder Bay
* Magic Point, Malabar
* Wybung Head
* North Harbour extension – Manly Wharf and Cove
* Barrenjoey Head (existing aquatic reserve)
* Bronte-Coogee (existing aquatic reserve)
* Cape Banks (existing aquatic reserve)Long Reef (existing aquatic reserve)
* Narrabeen Head (existing aquatic reserve)
* North Harbour (existing aquatic reserve)
* Bouddi National Park Marine Extension (existing)
* Cabbage Tree Bay (existing aquatic reserve)
* Boat Harbour (existing aquatic reserve)
* Ship Rock (existing aquatic reserve)
* Towra Point (existing aquatic reserve)

MEMA is asking that the community also nominate other sites.

The RFA is concerned that once again the Government is looking at a very small piece of the puzzle to provide a warm and fuzzy community impression that it’s actually doing something for the bioregion.

The existing aquatic reserve sites above have been in-situ for many years with no real scientific outcomes. For MEMA to add Chowder Bay, Manly Cove, Magic Point and Wybung Headland reminds us how little real investigative work will be done on these sites; the only criteria for including them is to appease flawed conservationist arguments to remove recreational fishing at all cost.

The Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregions contains the most polluted and government sanctioned dumping grounds in NSW that include:

* Extensive metal contamination in the sediments; more contemporary analysis might confirm the presence of non-metallic contaminants such as pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

* Emerging contaminants such as nanoparticles and micro plastics.

* Non-point source pollutant inputs such as from urban run-off and storm water drains

* During wet periods, stormwater and riverine flows bring large quantities of nitrogen and phosphorous.

* Increased shipping activities that increase the rate at which invasive larvae and juveniles are released.

* Inshore, near shore and offshore dumping of treated effluent.

* Inshore, near shore and offshore dumping of industrial waste.

* Health risks associated with the commercial and recreational intake of wild caught seafood and aquaculture like dioxins that make eating fish west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge dangerous and a potential catch and release fishery, or an effective “fish refuge zone”.

Even in today’s bioregion we continually dispose of various commercial and urban wastes directly into the estuaries, inshore and offshore waters and it has left a legacy of sediment contamination that will take centuries, if ever, to dissipate. Storm water and urban run-off continue to be released directly into the bioregion with negligible treatment.

The RFA of NSW has identified the entire bioregion for urgent assessment and must include all of the waters from far upstream out to 3 nautical miles.

MEMA should be assessing threats and risks to environmental, developing management options to address priority threats and enhance marine biodiversity conservation and it should be providing evidence-based options to Government to inform decision-making and specifically look at the following areas;

* Hunter River
* Lake Macquarie
* Brisbane Water, Hawkesbury River
* Sydney Harbour
* Botany Bay
* Port Hacking
* Port Kembla
* Lake Illawarra
* All Intertidal rocky shore
* All coastal waters to 3 nautical miles

MEMA has included Chowder Bay and a North Harbour Extension to Manly Cove and Wharf as part of a group of “community suggested sites”. Currently anglers are faced with the continued push to ban fishing in the North Harbour Aquatic, a completely unfounded ban on the taking of squid and a myriad of other exclusions on the Harbour for boat and land-based anglers.

The NSW Government conducted the last major assessment of recreational fishing in Sydney Harbour in 2008. An estimated 62 per cent of fishing was conducted from land and 38 per cent by boat. This is different to other estuaries in NSW, which are dominated by boat-based fishing.

Any perceived pressures that are attributed to recreational fishing are already being balanced by current lockouts and no-go areas in Sydney Harbour. We effectively have large aquatic reserves / sanctuary zones under the Harbour Bridge, around Barangaroo, Circular Quay, around and under Woolloomooloo, Darling Harbour, the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, ferry lanes and shipping channels; access has been lost in countless locations for both boat and land based fishers. We are currently losing more of our land based fishing locations near Balmain, and the dietary advice may yet change again and make fishing off-limits west of the Bridge.

The logic to even consider having Chowder Bay and Manly cove identified as potential new small reserves under MEMA Hawkesbury Bioregion is so flawed and insulting to the state’s recreational anglers.

More loss of access should not be even considered.

Clifton and Many Cove are popular and safe spots, easy to access and the less polluted than many other locations, and it’s so disappointing that they have been included in the discussion being driven by MEMA.


The RFA has also written to Minister Niall Blair with regards to the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion as we are concerned about how the community consultative process is being run. This is the most heavily populated, multiculturally diverse and developed region of NSW with an estimated resident population for Greater Sydney at over 4,600,000. If this is the only way MEMA intends to consult then we are very concerned. The portal and the set up of the website leave a lot to be desired and we know that recreational anglers are disengaging from the current process.

Approximately 30 per cent of the NSW population was born overseas and many have poor English language proficiency. We are concerned that these same migrant and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) anglers are being ignored by the NSW Government. CALD anglers make up a huge percentage of land-based anglers that rely on places like Sydney Harbour to catch fresh fish. They probably make up a large percentage of offenders in Fisheries Compliance matters for much the same reason: they are ignored by Fisheries NSW in terms of engagement and education. Despite this the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) has apparently not considered a CALD community engagement strategy.

Even though many fishers are able to navigate a complex web portal and have excellent computer and language skills, many of us have tried navigating the online submission process but going backwards and forwards on the interactive map/portal and having to repeat the process numerous times is frustrating.

At a minimum the Government needs to consider:

* A way to email responses to the process apart from the portal that can be validated and included as part of the consultation
* An extension of time, perhaps 8-12 weeks to deliver CALD engagement, a consultative paper process through fishing clubs and tackle shops and a face to face element via workshops.

We will now watch to see who is driving the agenda to lock recreational anglers out of safe and accessible fishing spots in NSW…

Do you support lock-outs or better fisheries management?
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