Green fury as anglers celebrate historic marine parks win

ANTI-FISHING groups are outraged that plans to lock anglers out of federal marine parks have officially been canned by the Abbott Government.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and the Save Our Marine Life organisation have posted online protests saying they are “not happy” about the Government’s move last Friday to remove management plans which would have banned anglers from 1.3 million sq km of iconic sportfishing territory.

Meanwhile, the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) has welcomed the Government’s reversal of the lockout plans.

“We are pleased the Coalition Government has listened to Australia’s recreational fishers and are conducting a scientific review of the proposal, which will give a sensible balance for Australia’s unique marine environment,” ARFF’s Allan Hansard said.

“It was clear that the decisions to ‘lock’ recreational fishers out of vast areas of our seas by the previous government was not scientifically based and was done to meet a political agenda.”

The Government’s marine parks announcement marks an historic win by the recreational fishing sector against powerful international environment groups, including the US-based Pew organisation which spent millions of dollars in its failed attempt to ban fishing across huge swathes of Australian territorial waters.


Pew’s Imogen Zethoven.

has previously interviewed Pew campaigner Imogen Zethoven, the chief architect of plans to ban all fishing in the Coral Sea. Zethoven’s divisive policies and no compromise stance on the Coral Sea issue is considered by many pundits to have been a key factor in motivating widespread angler opposition to marine parks plans.

Fisho also understands that Pew’s local staffers now think the Coral Sea plans were a “mistake” and that Zethoven made “errors in judgement” when dealing with the angling sector.

Mainstream media reports on the weekend said Environment Minister Greg Hunt had announced that the Government would retain all national marine reserves and parks, including their boundaries, but would redraft management plans controlling activities such as recreational fishing.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported ARFF as welcoming these changes because anglers would now have a “greater say in a new marine management scheme”.

“I have asked my department to begin work on a marine reserves review to consider what management arrangements will best protect marine ecosystems and accommodate the many industries and recreational fishers that use our oceans,” Mr Hunt is reported as saying.

Meanwhile, the AMCS and Save Our Marine Life have come under fire for banning anglers from making comments on their social media sites. It is understood anglers making what they describe as “responsible and legitimate” posts on the AMCS and Save Our Marine Life Facebook pages have been banned.

No explanation has been provided for this action, anglers told Fisho today.

A spokesman for Keep Australia Fishing (KAF), the national advocacy organisation responsible for many of the campaigns opposing the lockout plans, said it was “understandable” that environment groups were disappointed that their marine park campaign had failed.

The KAF spokesman said groups like the AMCS and Pew should now reconsider their anti-fishing policies and work with anglers to develop better policies for marine protection.

“KAF and other angling groups are happy for the environment groups to help us enact our plans involving improving habitat, reducing pollution and stopping industrial overfishing,” the spokesman said.

“Anglers are leading the way on these and many other important issues and it’s probably time the environment groups did something positive to help out.

“They are more than welcome to get involved with us in our plans to ensure that future generations can enjoy sustainable access to clean, healthy oceans teeming with fish and other marine animals.”

Fisho understands KAF and other angling groups have already been approached by at least one environment organisation which reportedly wants to “work with” the angling sector.

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