Green groups have joined forces to work on strategies to maximise no-fishing zones in marine parks, leaked information obtained by Fishing World reveals.
A draft position paper on fishing in Marine Protected Areas outlines options that eNGOs (environment-based non-government organisations) could adopt when involved in negotiations on possible boundaries and zones for any future state and commonwealth marine parks.
The paper, prepared by Melbourne-based staffers at the Australian Conservation Foundation, apparently makes few, if any, distinctions between commercial and recreational fishing activities. While it presents several management options which the recreational fishing community would likely support, sources said the ACF paper also detailed incorrect and misleading information on survival rates of released fish and impacts of recreational fishing, called for compulsory use of GPS by all anglers and failed to embrace pro-active measures such as Catch & Release only areas or the establishment of artificial reefs to compensate anglers for loss of traditional fishing grounds.
The draft position paper was one of a number of papers being prepared by the ACF as part of its Save Our Marine Life campaign, sources revealed. The ACF was apparently attempting to establish agreed positions on various resource uses in MPAs to ensure that the assorted eNGOs have a strong focus for their MPA campaign negotiations with governments and industry, as well as a consistent approach, presumably to avoid campaigns from different groups working at cross purposes to one another.
The draft paper lists overfishing, death of released fish, entanglement of marine animals in lost gear, ingestion of lost gear by marine animals, habitat damage by propellers/anchors and “harassment of marine mammals” as being the main risks associated with recreational fishing.
The draft paper also advocates that green groups push for biodegradable fishing lines to be the only lines permitted in MPAs, even though such lines have no mainstream market penetration and as yet have limited applicability.
The recreational fishing sector said the ACF’s draft position paper on fishing in MPAs was “regrettable”.
“It is regrettable that the ACF is choosing not to discuss its position paper with RecFish Australia,” said RecFish CEO Len Olyott.
“Working together, we could investigate options for marine conservation that are feasible and will have maximum impact. RecFish is committed to sustainable recreational fishing practices. We also have a wealth of information on released fish survival and uptake of ecologically sustainable fishing practices and equipment.
“We believe that recreational fishers want to do the right thing but to try and force through regulations which criminalize our activity is not the smartest way to go about it.”
Frank Prokop, Recfishwest executive officer, decried the actions of the conservation groups in ignoring input from the rec fishing community.
“If only groups such as Pew put their money in working on biodegradable fishing line or bait bags, or worked with us instead of trying to literally exterminate us, then, maybe just then, we might come up with a balanced plan that actually does more than provide lines on maps and unnecessary divisions between concerned Australians,” Prokop told Fishing World.