Pew turns up the heat in SA

MANY South Australian recreational fishers are reeling as foreign conservation groups and the local diving industry step up their attack against an Opposition Marine Parks (Sanctuary Zones) Amendment Bill.

The bill, which aims to reduce the number of sanctuary zones that will come into effect on 1 October (see HERE for details), passed the Legislative Council in July and is due for debate in the House of Assembly on September 18.

Conservation Council of WA, for the Save Our Marine Life Collaboration, recently set up an SA specific page with false claims around the number of unique species in South Australian waters.

The page claims that “South Australia’s waters are unique”.

It goes on to say that “eighty percent of all species found in our waters are found nowhere else on earth. On 1 October a new network of marine parks will come into effect. Feeding and breeding areas for species like the Leafy Sea Dragon and Australian Sea Lion and iconic dive sites like Neptune Islands will receive long overdue protection. Unfortunately, right now this is all at risk. Have a look at our digital flipbook and see for yourself what’s at stake.”

The flipbook (see HERE) has been produced by Essential Media Communications, which has previously been linked to Pew and dodgy marine parks polls (See HERE for details).

Media enquiries for Save Our Marine Life are directed to Paul Sheridan, who previously worked for Essential Media, with Michelle Grady listed as the “National Coordinator for Save our Marine Life / Protect our Coral Sea”.

Ms Grady’s Twitter bio describes her as “Pew Environment Group – Oceans Director (Australia) & Save Our Marine Life campaign – national coordinator”.

Ms Grady is a Member of the Fisheries Council of South Australia and the Deputy Presiding Member of the Marine Parks Council.

The following SARDI report (see HERE) seems to be the source of the false information regarding SA’s “unique” marine life. The SARDI paper says 600 fish species are found in the “temperate” region of Australia. “Temperate” is defined as “waters of Australia extend(ing) from south west Western Australia, along the southern coast of Australia, to southern New South Wales and includes the waters of Victoria and Tasmania”.

Of these 600 species, 85 per cent are endemic, SARDI says. This compares to 1900 in tropical areas of Australia of which 13 per cent are endemic.

In Keep Australia Fishing’s opinion, a more correct statement would be that “85 per cent of the 600 fish species found in the temperate zone from south west Western Australia to southern NSW are classified as being ‘endemic’ to this area”.

Meanwhile, a new Facebook page and petition have also popped up in opposition to the Liberal Bill.

Save our SA Marine Parks claim on their page that “We are not anti fishing but we are pro Marine Sanctuary Zone!”

The petition page (See HERE), states that “If you love our amazing marine life like seals, dolphins, blue devils, weedy & leafy sea dragons and blue groper then I really need your help”.

The writer of the petition states: “I own a dive store in Adelaide and like many others in the industry in South Australia I’ve been looking forward to our new network of marine parks and sanctuaries coming into effect on 1 October this year”.

The petition to Independents Martin Hamilton-Smith and Geoff Brock reads “South Australia has some of the most unique marine life in the world, we need our marine sanctuaries to ensure the sustainability of this marine life. The Scuba Diving industry in SA is on the frontline when it comes to witnessing the damage from recreational & commercial fishing …”

It will be interesting to see whether the fall-out from an article in a Sydney newspaper reporting that marine parks are dangerous to seahorses (see HERE) will have any impact on this group’s zeal for sanctuary zones …

Meanwhile, recreational fishers have been quick to point out that simply banning recreational fishing does not afford protection and that if these areas are so environmentally sensitive, that recreational fishing has to be banned, then how are other activities – including oil and gas exploration, commercial shark berleying, large-scale tourist operations and diving – allowed to occur in and around these sanctuary zones?

The pro-marine park activists have so far failed to address these concerns, although Keep Australia Fishing is endeavouring to obtain responses …

Shannon Poulton is Keep Australia Fishing’s SA spokesman

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