D-Day for SA marine parks

THERE is now less than a week until the D-Day vote for South Australian recreational fishers and the controversial Marine Park Sanctuary Zones that will see Jay Weatherill’s Government lock recreational fishos out of 6 per cent of state waters from October 1, while still allowing oil and gas exploration, commercial shark berleying, large-scale tourist operations and diving in and around these same areas.

RecFish SA, or “Wreckfish” as they are increasingly being labelled by active local recreational fishers, are holding firm in their opposition to Michelle Lensink MLC’s Marine Parks (Sanctuary Zones) Amendment Bill that would see 12 sanctuary zones abolished, with recreational fishers again allowed access to these areas.

RecFish SA, which state on the front page of their website that they are “the recognised peak body, whose role is to advise government on recreational angling issues and to advocate on behalf of the 236,463 recreational anglers in South Australia” are requesting that “MPs either oppose the Amendment Bill, or alternatively, propose an amendment to it that protects critical spawning and nursery areas, especially the Sanctuary Zone in Marine Park 14.”

RecFishSA’s chairman, Brenton Schahinger, has caught the ire of many recreational fishers during the marine park process.

Mr Schahinger was previously the secretary of the Black Point Progress Association, which have been campaigning for a commercial netting ban in Gulf St Vincent since 1999.

There are no marine parks or sanctuary zones earmarked for the Black Point area.

In Mr Schahinger’s address of June 23, 2013, he claimed “feedback RecFish SA has been getting indicates that most recreational fishers accept the final plans in which the sanctuary zones or ‘no-take zones’ have been reduced to around six percent of the state waters”.

This was put into disrepute in local paper Plains Producer on 13 March, 2014 (p.9) where “Mr Schahinger claimed he had canvassed a sample of between 400 and 500 fishers over a number of years and found a huge majority supported marine parks”, followed by a quote from Mr Schahinger saying that “there will always be a handful of rednecks who will never be happy about any marine park outcome”.

An FOI request by Member for Norwood, Steven Marshall MP, and subsequent external review determination and reversal by the Ombudsman allowed the release of minutes from the previously secret Government Marine Parks Key Stakeholder Forum, held on April 11-12 2012.

The minutes revealed how the Sanctuary Zone in Park 14 was enlarged due to “strong support from recreational fishers that B1 (top of Gulf) be extended by crossing the gulf”. According to the minutes, Mr Schahinger was the only listed recreational fishing representative at the meeting.

As previously reported by Fishing World, RecFish SA had struck a $125,000 deal with the Government to sell the positive aspects of the controversial marine parks to anglers, uncovered through a Freedom of Information request by Member for Goyder, Steven Griffiths MP.

Keep Australia Fishing has also been alerted to a number of disturbing reports of legitimate posts of concern from South Australian recreational fishers about RecFish’s position being deleted or hidden from their recently set-up Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the peak Victorian and NSW recreational fishing bodies have publically supported a WeFish petition which calls for anglers to not be banned from 12 South Australian marine parks.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW posted on their Facebook page “South Australian anglers have asked for our help in the non scientific Marine Parks Sanctuary Zone debate with a hope that all groups can see that fishing is not the only threat to our aquatic ecosystems”.

The petition, which has over 3000 Australian signatures, has also been supported by Australian fishing personalities Brendan Wing, Mark Berg and Al McGlashan, as well as numerous other state and national publications and groups.

A community rally has been organised on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide from 7-10am on Thursday, September 18, to support the Marine Parks (Sanctuary Zones) Amendment Bill.

See related story at: http://www.fishingworld.com.au/news/sa-fishos-rally-in-lead-up-to-marine-parks-amendment-bill

Shannon Poulton is Keep Australia Fishing’s SA spokesman.

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