The End of The Line Sells Out in Fremantle!

Powerful documentary The End of the Line sold out the first screening at Luna on SX cinema in Fremantle last night.
Labelled by The Economist as ‘the inconvenient truth about our oceans’ the film has returned to Luna after demand was not met by a previous cinema run in Northbridge. It uses stunning underwater cinematography and interviews with world leading scientists to tell the story of the devastating impact of overfishing on our oceans, and how we can each help to turn it around.
Tickets for the next screening at 6.30pm on Sunday 26th August are available on the special events page of the Luna Palace website. Bookings recommended.
More details and links to come…

Posted by Wordmobi

Fisheries Report 169 – Are Fishos getting sold a dud by Fisheries Department on fishing and sanctuaries / marine parks?

It is being claimed in the media by some that a recently released report from the Fisheries Department “The efficacy of sanctuary areas for the management of fish stocks and biodiversity in WA waters”, counters the increasingly strong arguments for marine sanctuaries, or sanctuary zones in marine parks, as a necessary tool in biodiversity protection and a valuable tool in fisheries management.

As discussed below, these claims are not true and don’t do justice to the serious concerns amongst many fishos about the future of fish stocks, fishing and the marine environment.

The report authors themselves, in the direct quote below, acknowledge that there is evidence of benefits for biodiversity from a network of marine sanctuaries, but debate around the benefits for fisheries management.

What is not acknowledged in the report; however, is that the debate on fisheries management is increasingly swinging towards an acceptance of the benefits of marine sanctuaries in providing valuable research areas, insurance against mistakes and often spill over benefits to neighboring fisheries.

Other recent reports based on a wide search of the latest literature back this view that the benefits side of the ledger is increasingly in favour of marine sanctuaries – meaning sanctuaries are highly likely to play an important role in recovering the quality of recreational fishing in WA (links to three examples here here here ).

The case for fisheries benefits from marine sanctuaries is especially strong in areas where fish stocks are overexploited – which is the case in WA and this is acknowledged by the Fisheries Department in separate documents .

Below is the above mentioned quotes from the Fisheries Department report. The benefits listed in these other reports are acknowledged, but the report then tries to argue that they are not applicable to WA.

On page 2, the report states: “We conclude that there is a rational basis to support the establishment of additional marine sanctuary areas in WA waters where they have clear, measurable objectives and at a scale that relates to achievable benefits for tourism, biodiversity monitoring, research and other ‘no-take’ outcomes. Given the extensive fisheries management and marine habitat protection systems already operating in WA marine waters (which includes an extensive set of spatial closures and management arrangements), there is no scientific basis within the WA context to support their justification for the purposes of managing harvested fish stocks, where they are merely additional to current management controls.”

The efficacy of sanctuary areas for the management of fish stocks and biodiversity in WA waters , J. W. Penn and W. J. Fletcher

Further, the report claims that “In terms of benefits, whilst there is no doubt that sanctuaries often result in an increase in the local densities and sizes of some species (i.e. those that are not highly migratory), this does not automatically equate with improved fish production potential at the whole of stock level or even increased biodiversity. In WA there are few species with breeding stock levels that are reduced to a point where the increased egg production generated from a general sanctuary zone is likely to measurably improve their recruitment”.

To address the above points:

Firstly, the few species mentioned that have low enough stock levels to benefit from sanctuaries actually happen to include the most economically important fishery in Australia – MSC certified and recently hailed as the best managed fishery in the world; the western rock lobster fishery ; and the iconic recreationally targeted species like Dhufish, Baldchin Groper, Breaksea cod and Pink and Red Snapper.

In the case of rock lobster around 100 boats dropped out of the fishery in the past year, and larval recruitment is down to close to 1% of historical averages. A lack of broodstock (egg production) is one of the prime concerns because environmental factors alone have not yet been able to explain the decline.

In the case of the recreationally targeted species, the ‘vulnerable five’, rec fishos have already been taken off the water for 2 months of the year and – in the case of dhufish  - bag limits have already been reduced to one fish. There is serious concern about the ability of dhufish stocks to recover unless fishing effort is reduced by at least half.

In other words, some of WA’s most important fish stocks have reduced to a point where well designed marine sanctuaries would be likely to aid their recovery.

The other claim that has been jumped on by some commentators is that there is no evidence from WA that marine sanctuaries work. This is not quite true, there is evidence starting to emerge from Ningaloo Reef of benefits to both biodiversity and fishing and to the local economy. Ningaloo Reef is one of the few areas of the WA coast with a network of sanctuary protection. But with less than 1% of the coast protected (and most of this in Ningaloo Reef Marine Park) there are so few examples of marine sanctuaries that this evidence would be impossible to produce for much of the coast.

Simply put, if you demand local evidence then you need local sanctuaries – a nice circular argument for those who never want to see a sanctuary in WA.

However, the absence of this information is not an argument against sanctuaries, it simply suggests we should look elsewhere and make reasonable assumptions that the incredible benefits found in similar environments around Australia and in New Zealand would also be realised in WA.

The report also demonstrates outdated thinking in its claims that “ marine habitats, and therefore a large proportion of the biodiversity in WA waters, are highly protected from negative fishery impacts compared to nearly all other locations in the world ”. This is because WA has a limited area of trawl fishing. However, this thinking ignores the well documented proof that overexploitation of key fish stocks, particularly the large predators that are so often targeted by fishing pressure, has had fundamental negative impacts on biodiversity, ecological communities and even physical habitats.

There is little real understanding of thee effects in WA waters; principally because there are so few marine sanctuaries. However, evidence from elsewhere suggests that there are significant impacts. For example studies on the Great Barrier Reef show better control of coral eating Crown-of-thorn outbreaks in sanctuary zones , and evidence from NZ shows that the large snapper and crayfish in sanctuary zones reduce the occurrence of kelp destroying urchin outbreaks which create large low productivity ‘urchin patches’ on areas of former kelp reef. This is simply because the larger predators are capable of eating the larger urchins, when these larger animals are removed, the urchins take over and eat away the kelp forest.

People and particulaly fishos should be very careful in considering arguments that this report makes a case against sanctuaries. The question each person should ask in considering this debate is: how good is the fishing, diving or marine life compared to 10 years ago, 15? 20? I know personally I got into marine conservation when I saw the fishing and diving in WA go downhill during the 90’s, particularly in my old favourite holiday destination of Geographe Bay.

WA has a unique marine environment and lifestyle that is appreciated by conservationists, diver and fishers alike. Our unique marine environment and our great fishing and marine lifestyle deserves better than what we have given it in the past, and a network of marine sanctuaries will go a long way to giving us better.

Sanctuaries are not a silver bullet, but they must be at the heart of the management regime that is required to ensure a future for our fishing and our marine life.

New Australian The End of the Line Screening Announced

Sunday 18 April 2010
2.00pm
Sustainable Food Fair
Grantham Heritage Park
71 Seven Hills Road
Seven Hills NSW
For further details please contact: Amy Burgess on 02 9389 6582

All Australian and NZ screenings here.

Or search for Australian and NZ screenings at the official website.

Evidence suggests new fishing licenses are not solution for fish stocks in WA

Today the Minister for Fisheries announced that he would consider all measures to save WA’s fish stocks from becoming overfished, and then went on to talk about considering another new license fee for fishing. Is charging shore based anglers $30 a year really going to make a difference to fish stocks?

Five years ago the amount of sanctuary zone protection on the Great Barrier Reef was increased to 33%, a recent paper co-presented by a who’s who of Australian marine scientists found extraordinary environmental benefits due to this increased protection, including rapid increases in fish stocks, and net benefits to fishing and the economy.

A recent study by the respected Allen’s consulting group on proposed marine sanctuaries for southwest WA also found that there would be long term benefits to fishing and an overall benefit to the WA economy from a network of marine sanctuaries. Author Dr Martin Van Bueren has a long history of public policy environmental economics and a PhD in fisheries economics.

Evidence from the Ningaloo Reef marine park in WA where marine sanctuary protection was recently increased is also suggesting strong environmental, fishing and economic benefits.

So what about a fishing license? Bag limits have failed to protect fish in WA, for example you can’t go any lower than a bag limit of one Dhufish. Cutting commercial effort has failed to turn the situation around, the metro area is now a recreational fishing only zone and the declines of fish stocks continue. Broad seasonal closures have now started for some species but these are unpopular amongst fishers and evidence of their effectiveness in reversing declines in fish stocks, as opposed to stopping futher over-exploitation during vulnerable periods, is not as strong as for marine sanctuaries. It is hard to see how simply adding a license to this picture will reverse the declines.

Rather, the evidence suggests that a mix of long term closures, marine sanctuaries, highly localised seasonal closures such as the snapper breeding aggregations in Cockburn Sound, and maintenance of traditional bag limit controls outside of sanctuaries is the best way forward. A license may compliment these by providing funds for research and enforcement but it is hard to see it as a solution in itself.

Some will argue against this by saying that in a healthy and well managed fishery there are no fisheries benefits to marine sanctuaries, and they are only for biodiversity protection. This is a genuinely disputed point amongst fisheries scientists. However, it is a moot point in WA where serious declines in a number of fish species is driving the concern from fisheries managers and marine scientists that is leading to measures like the fishing licenses.

A license might have a role to play in WA, but the answer to reversing declines in fish stocks and marine biodiversity starts with a network of marine sanctuaries.

Save Our Marine Life

The squid wants you to go to http://www.saveourmarinelife.org.au to take action for our unique and unprotected marine life.
By joining the online campaign and taking our web actions you can make a big difference in this inspiring campaign for marine sacntuaries in WA’s southwest, where less than 1% of our waters are protected.