THE federal Government is blaming “obstruction” by the Opposition and stalling tactics by the Greens for delays in passing legislation overturning the contentious mako shark ban.
Game anglers who believed the shark ban issue was dead and buried may have to wait until after the next federal election to legally catch mako sharks. Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who enacted the ban last year and then backflipped in the face of furious opposition by anglers, had promised to “prioritise” the legislation.
It has been revealed today that legislation due to overturn the ban has been delayed, possibly for more than a year.
Government sources say the legislation allowing anglers to legally catch makos “will” be passed but likely not as soon as promised.
Opposition fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck said the Rudd Government had bowed to pressure from the Greens over the mako issue.
“There was no scientific evidence to support a ban on mako shark fishing,” Senator Colbeck said. “Yet Environment Minister Peter Garrett implemented a ban under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act starting from 29 January 2010.”
“Recreational fishermen were not consulted – but fringe green groups were given a seat at the table and the ear of the Minister.
“A massive effort by the recreational fishers, in conjunction with the federal Coalition, saw a grassroots campaign eventually force a backdown by Minister Garrett in January. Legislation to overturn the Minister’s ban was not introduced to Parliament until the 25th of February – three sitting weeks following his backdown.
“Now the Labor Government has bowed to the demands of the Greens to not prioritise the legislation in the Senate meaning the legislation is still not on the Senate’s agenda – and may not be debated until after the June sitting weeks.
“If Mr Rudd calls an election for August or September, that means the legislation may not be debated until after the election and perhaps as late as 2011.”
Fisho was today told by Minister Garrett’s office that the mako legislation is on the Senate order of business for debate today.
“Unfortunately, because of the continued obstruction of the Liberal and National parties in the Senate, debate on important measures like the mako amendment gets pushed down the queue. The Greens have also indicated that they do not regard the bill as non-controversial, delaying its passage,” the spokesman said.
“The Government recognises the importance of this amendment to address a situation created by Senator Colbeck’s own party when they were in government and will continue to try to ensure passage of this bill as a priority.
“Until this amendment is passed the ban on fishing for mako and porbeagle sharks will continue to apply to recreational fishers.”
Catch & release fishing for makos is not likely to be affected by the Senate delay, the Government spokesman said. No enforcement action will be taken against organisers or participants of tournaments “provided that appropriate measures are in place to minimise impacts, including promotion of sustainable fishing practices”.
“As a further transitional arrangement, the department has been working with several fishing tournament organisers to enable their events to proceed on an agreed basis.”
Fisho will keep you updated on further developments.