Comment: Rec fishing losing public support on marine parks

The new marine park plans provided a fair balance for rec fishers.

THE Turnbull Government last week released its final plans for the network of 44 Federal Marine Reserves. The outcome provided a fair balance for rec fishers.

The original Labor/Greens proposal involved massive rec fishing lock-outs with very little scientific justification for its decision. The Abbott Government threw away Labor’s proposal as part of its election campaign promise in 2013. Until now…

Four years down the track and the latest Turnbull Government’s marine park plan allows rec fishos a fairer balance. On the flipside, it does open up more areas to commercial fishing, which has been a major criticism from environmental groups and some rec fishos. It is, however, a compromise and the balance in this case is tipped clearly in the favour of rec fishos.

As Fisho reported on Thursday, the Shadow Environment Minister, Labor’s Tony Burke, promised to motion a dis-allowance in the Senate, potentially derailing the government’s plans. If this happens it could see Australians lose a significant area to rec fishing; a huge loss! And once it’s gone, it will be very difficult to get back!

Coinciding with this, social and mainstream media engaged in a major campaign to back Labor’s moves and reject the most recent proposal. The question now is, will they win?

A quick Google search about the subject reveals dozens of anti-fishing reports. All of these are the result of a cleverly crafted campaign to influence decision makers and average Australians into protesting against the Turnbull Government’s plan. It’s a smear campaign and the message was clear and consistent. The same lines were repeated and mainstream media accepted it. From an outsiders perspective, they seem to have a solid argument.

Major news websites including the ABCThe Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald reported a strong bias against the government decision. The Sydney Morning Herald published an article titled “Government winds back marine protections to support fishing industry”. The fact is, Labor’s marine protections were never implemented. It’s just one example how well-orchestrated political spin goes unchecked by mainstream media and Labor is using these emotive arguments to win support.

So where are our rec fishing representatives? Where’s our spin? The Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA) and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) shifted its direction in 2017. My understanding is AFTA would focus on its core strengths as an association representing the interests of distributors, wholesalers and tackle retailers. To its credit, AFTA sent out an email call to action last week asking its members to act fast on this important issue. It also features on association’s website homepage. ARFF continues as the peak national body representing Australian rec fishos. ARFF released a statement today supporting the Government’s move.

With Labor’s Dis-allowance Motion scheduled in the senate today, it may be a case of too little, too late. Unfortunately our peak representative body is poorly funded. We don’t have the generous funding models and staff that some of these environmental groups enjoy, and as a result, we’re very much on the back foot when it comes to issues such as marine parks.

Rec fishing needs a national representative body with close connections to Canberra. ARFF was very successful in this regard with Allan Hansard at the helm. More so, we need to compete on a public relations level. We need close connections to media and we need a solid understanding of the daily news cycle and impacts social media can have on political issues. This is a game played out through traditional and mainstream media and it’s an area rec fishos have typically failed to deliver a strong message.

Fishing World will continue bring you further updates on the federal marine park issue as news comes to hand.

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