COMMENT: Feds Keep Their Word

IT is instinctual for most of us to disbelieve politicians. It’s just the way things are. But the recently released consultation paper for the South-West Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network (See seperate article by Scott Coghlan HERE) reveals that the federal Government has largely kept its word about its plans for a vast system of new marine parks having minimal impact on recreational fishing.

Senior politicians such as former environment minister Peter Garrett and parliamentary secretary for fisheries Mike Kelly both said during interviews with Fishing World that the federal marine parks plan would likely not impact in any significant way on recreational fishing activities.

The draft plan for the south-west marine bioregion, which extends from southern WA right around into SA, seems to indicate that the Government is making the right noises in delivering on its promises. While there will be some restrictions on recreational fishing under the new plans, most of the no-go zones will be far offshore and thus should not have any real influence on the day-to-day activities of most recreational anglers.

This bodes well for other parks being planned by the Government, including areas off northern Australia and, most contentiously, in the Coral Sea off Queensland.
The new south-west federal marine park, slated as being the biggest in the world, will, however, have a significant effect on commercial fishing activity. Fisho suggests that this is a good thing – intensive commercial fishing is the root cause of declines in global fish stocks. Reducing commercial effort will result in healthier oceans and more fish. Worryingly, some lobbyists with links to the commercial and recreational sectors are seeking to unite both sectors against the new marine parks. This sort of move should be firmly rejected from our end. We have nothing in common with the commercial sector – they are out to take as much as they can, we want to preserve and enjoy our oceanic resources now and into the future.

Rather than throwing our hat in with the long liners and trawlers, we need to reinforce to federal politicians and ministers the positive social and environmental benefits of a well-managed recreational fishing industry. We should stake our own claims about how we want our marine resources managed, not follow at the coattails of businessmen who have exploited and destroyed our fragile marine environments for so long.

It is interesting to note also that extremist green groups have reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with the federal Government’s marine park plans. This is not surprising. Some of the nuttier anti-fishing groups out there will not be happy until the entire ocean is closed off to all forms of fishing. These hard-core activists refuse to accept the idea that recreational fishing is sustainable. Hopefully the Government will realise that these extremists are not worth dealing with and instead will work with moderate environmentalists and anglers in coming up with plans that maintain biodiversity while allowing sensible sportfishing activity to develop.

The Government’s draft plans for the new SW region marine park deserve close examination and comment by all concerned anglers. There are positive developments within it on which the Government needs our support – ie, the closure of many areas to destructive commercial fishing, the seeming refusual to kowtow to the outrageous demands of anti-fishing extremists to ban or limit rec fishing. We also need to urge Environment Minister Tony Burke to examine proactive fisheries management strategies – such as C&R only zones – to further reduce any unnecessary impacts on angling.

There is NO scientific data that indicates that any areas anywhere need to be closed to well-managed recreational fishing. We need to politely but firmly inform the federal Government of this and urge it to make decisions based on science, not rhetoric and spin from self-seeking lobbyists.

Maps and zoning plans for the new federal marine park can be found HERE and HERE.

Have your say – you’ve got 90 days to make your voice heard.

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