Opinion: Victorian Greens wrong on netting in Port Phillip Bay

HEARING a greenie bleating on in support of commercial fishing is probably something many Fisho readers might find surprising. But once you look into the reasons behind why this has happened, it’s not really surprising at all.

The stance by Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber in decrying the decision by the state Government to phase out commercial netting in Port Phillip Bay has been reported on Radio National’s Breakfast program as being in support of seafood-loving consumers.

There may well be a modicum of truth in that. But the main reason Mr Barber is so antsy about the netters getting kicked out is because he and his ilk don’t like the idea of recreational anglers getting too big for their boots.

Green groups, along with the commercial fishing industry, are very nervous about moves by the recreational fishing sector to push for increased opportunities for the nation’s millions of anglers.

The commercials aren’t too keen on anglers wanting fairer access to fisheries resources. Doing this will obviously result in changes to how fisheries are allocated and managed. And no industry, especially not the commercial fishing industry, likes change … But the green groups are worried for different reasons. Not too long ago, there was no real political or social distinction between “commercial” and “recreational” fishing. It was all just “fishing”. And green groups very cleverly delivered a message that “fishing” was, more often than not, bad for the environment.

But now there is growing realisation that recreational fishing is inherently different to commercial. It’s not superior to commercial fishing – it’s just different. It brings different benefits to society. It utilises different methods and the people involved in it fish for vastly different reasons than commercial fishermen do. Thus it needs to be managed differently.

The fisheries allocation changes in Port Phillip Bay reflect that need for difference. The same thing has been done in Queensland, in the NT barra rivers, up and down the NSW coast and overseas in places as diverse as Panama, the Bahamas, Florida, Costa Rica and Picairn Island.

The fact is commercial fishing with nets reduces opportunities for recreational fishermen. In order to balance things out, some areas where nets aren’t allowed are required to give anglers a chance at enjoying some productive fishing. In other areas the principle of a “shared” fishery applies – ie, anglers and commercial operators both access the fishery. In other fisheries, for example, deep sea, abalone, lobster, longlining and so on, the commercial industry basically has exclusive rights because most rec anglers can’t access the fish. Freshwater fisheries are fundamentally rec-only for much the same reasons.

The big problem now facing people like Greg Barber is that he can’t now take a simplistic political line on fishing activities. He, and his cohorts in groups like Pew, the AMCS, Greenpeace and so on, now need to consider commercial and recreational fishing separately and individually. Why? Because they are separate and individual sectors.

To do otherwise would demonstrate once and for all that Green politicians like Mr Barber have no credibility … But perhaps expecting a politician, be he or her Green, Labor or Liberal, to be credible is wishful thinking in the extreme …

Jim Harnwell is the editor and publisher of Fishing World. He has long had a keen interest in fishing politics and policy development.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.