Green extremists launch media attacks on fishos

DESPERATE anti-fishing groups are using the mainstream media to launch unprecedented attacks on anglers and their families as the NSW Government considers imminent changes to marine parks.

Recent articles in The Sydney Morning Herald quote anti-fishing scientists and marine park lobbyists as saying that recreational fishing is “not natural” and could result in “species extinction”.

See articles HERE and HERE.

The Herald articles published quotes and comments from anti-fishing proponents but did not present statements or comments from the recreational fishing perspective.

A page 4 article in today’s Herald features a conservation activist from the NSW South Coast warning of “species extinction” if any sanctuary zones in Jervis Bay are changed.

The Herald says marine conservationist Attila Kaszo “fears for the survival of some fish species” if the Government “lift a ban on recreational fishing in protected marine sanctuaries”.

The paper quotes Kaszo as saying marine sanctuaries contained breeding grounds that, before being protected, were overfished.

”Just 20 per cent of Jervis Bay is zoned sanctuary and the rest can be fished,” Kaszo told the Herald. ”Opening it up will put us back 20 years to when it was heavily overfished.

”What I don’t want to see happening is the erosion of the existing sanctuary zones and I want to see the habitat protection zones maintained.”

The Herald report does not mention that no sanctuary zones within Jervis Bay are or have been considered for change. It also fails to detail data or reports linking anglers to Kaszo’s claims of “overfishing” before the bay was declared a marine park.

As Fisho understands it, the only zone in the Jervis Bay Marine Park that faces possible change is a small section of ocean beach north from Currarong. As far as Fisho is aware, this section of open beach, which lies some miles from Jervis Bay itself, does not contain known “breeding grounds” for any fish species.

Recreational target species in this area include migratory fish such as bream and whiting plus inshore pelagics in the form of salmon and tailor. NSW Fisheries data indicates that none of these species are listed as being endangered, threatened or close to extinction.

The Herald does not provide any detail or scientific backing for Kaszo’s “fears for the survival of some fish species” if recreational line fishing is again allowed on this beach.

As Fisho understands it, there is no credible science linking recreational line fishing from beaches to any habitat protection issues or sustainability concerns.

Fisho editor Jim Harnwell, who was a member of the marine parks advisory committee during the implementation of the JBMP 15 years ago, said the declaration of open beaches as sanctuary zones was and still remains a controversial issue.

“I distinctly recall senior Fisheries officials making it clear at various committee meetings that there was no scientific prerogative requiring recreational fishing to be banned on open surf beaches,” Harnwell said.

“These guys were very specific about the fact that there were no habitat issues to consider and there were no biodiversity concerns. The only reason for declaring these beaches closed to recreational fishing was because the government of the day wanted a certain percentage of the JBMP to be declared as ‘sanctuary zones’. To get that percentage we needed to close down part of the beach. It was all to do with bureaucracy. There was no science involved.

“While I supported – and continue to support – the need for some areas of JB to be closed to fishing, I never supported these beach lockouts because they were designed to fit political requirements and achieved no environmental benefit.

“This aspect of the marine park process left a bad taste in my mouth which exists to this day,” Harnwell said.

Fisho understands the Herald articles stem from concerns green groups have about proposed changes to fishing rules in some beaches and rocky headlands contained within NSW’s marine parks network.

A scientific review conducted after the current Government won office in 2011 recommended that recreational line fishing be re-allowed in these areas as it presented negligible environmental risk.

An “amnesty” on line fishing on ocean beaches and headlands was announced in March 2013.

The Herald reports that it is expected that the NSW Cabinet will meet tomorrow to consider findings from this trial, which has been assessed by a “marine estate expert knowledge panel”.

It is expected the Government’s decision on this issue will be announced this week.

Although the anti-fishing sector is obviously ramping up protest action about any possible changes to marine parks in NSW, the NSW Government has made it clear that its decisions will be based on science.

“The amnesty was put in place as part of the NSW Government’s new approach to managing the NSW marine estate,” NSW Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson told Fisho recently.

“This new approach was developed following the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks which found that information was lacking with respect to some sanctuary zones.

“The NSW Government supports the recreational fishing sector – which generates some $3.5 billion for the NSW economy each year – through a wide range of programs which provide quality fishing opportunities across the state.

“(We are) committed to ensuring a science-based approach – which considers environmental, social and economic impacts – is used in the management of the marine estate,” the Minister said.

The changes being considered in NSW marine parks are similar to those announced by the federal Government in relation to the national marine parks network.

Under the former Labor/Green government, anglers faced massive lockouts due to the lobbying efforts of groups like the US-based Pew organisation. Pew helps fund some of the groups currently opposing possible changes to the NSW marine park network.

The federal lockout plans have since been scrapped by the Coalition – see articles HERE and HERE.

It is expected that national angling organizations headed by the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) will now have lead roles in developing new marine protection plans.

According to social media reports, anti-fishing groups are concerned that relaxing rules regarding fishing on beaches and headlands could be “the thin edge of the wedge” which could result in further changes to sanctuary zones in NSW marine parks.

However, Fisho understands the NSW Government is not considering any further changes to any other zones within the state’s six marine parks.

An ARFF spokesman today said it was vital that “robust science” underpinned all marine protection measures.

“Australian anglers are committed to ensuring our oceans, estuaries, rivers and creeks remain healthy, diverse and sustainable. ARFF supports measures that provide effective marine protection, especially in regards to habitat and habitat restoration, while allowing carefully managed access for anglers and their families.

“We will be interested to see what eventuates in NSW regarding possible changes to some zoning rules as has been announced. We will support any decision the Government makes, as long as it is based on credible and independent science,” the ARFF spokesman said.

For more details on Fisho’s stance and policies on the marine parks issue, especially concerning NSW’s plans to manage its “marine estate”, see Environment Editor John Newbery’s op-ed piece HERE.


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