Environment

ARFF Maps Provide Marine Park “Balance”

A SERIES of maps detailing angler requirements for federal marine parks was recently presented to Environment Minister Greg Hunt. The maps, which have been obtained by Fishing World, were developed by the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF), the peak national body representing the nation’s 5 million anglers.

The federal Government’s review of the federal marine parks, which under the previous Labor government would have banned anglers from millions of square kilometres of water, including many iconic sportfishing locations, is expected to be finalised soon.

The ARFF maps have been designed to retain access to priority fishing areas, simplify zoning for stakeholder user groups, provide equity of access between recreational users and provide a higher level of marine protection where all commercial and recreational activities are restricted.

The ARFF proposals come as anti-fishing groups and diving companies ramp up pressure on Minister Hunt to create massive “lock-out zones” where fishing will be banned but dive businesses get exclusive access.

“This alliance between anti-fishing green groups and dive companies is a clear example of self-interest attempting to influence public policy. Why should the dive industry attempt to lock up iconic recreational fishing areas just so it can make more profit from its commercial operations?” a recreational fishing sector insider told Fisho.

“If areas are so ecologically important as to warrant sanctuary zone protection, that means all recreational and commercial user groups should be excluded. You can’t have one rule for one group, and another rule for a different group.”

International environment organisations, led by the US-based Pew Environment Trust, staged a multi-million dollar campaign to ban all fishing in key areas, including the entire Coral Sea, prior to the 2013 federal election. The Pew lock-out crusade failed following the election of the Abbott Government, in which the recreational sector played a pivotal role in campaigning against the anti-fishing policies of then environment minister Tony Burke and his colleagues in the Green/Labor alliance.

Pew and other green groups are now putting extreme pressure on the Abbott Government to maintain and even increase the lock-out zones previously proposed under the Burke marine park plan. Some government sources have indicated that lock-out demands by the green groups are having no traction within the Coalition. However, there are indications that Minister Hunt is under a sustained assault being staged by well-resourced environment lobbyists.

The ARFF maps are designed to put “balance” in the marine parks process by allowing reasonable access to important recreational fishing areas while providing total protection to large areas of marine habitat.

Fisho understands ARFF representatives have met with senior Government officials, including Minister Hunt, in recent days. Further top-level meetings with key ministers and bureaucrats are planned in coming weeks.

It is also understood that the Government will release its marine park plans for public comment in the near future, possibly within the next month or two.

Fisho will provide further information on the current state of play involving the federal marine parks issue as and when it happens.

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