Recfishwest Seeks to Mislead Fishers

Recfishwest, the self proclaimed peak lobby group for recreational fishermen in WA, has sought to  mislead its members in the lead up to the Federal Government marine planning process.  Big claim?  Yes it is, and not lightly made.  Lets have a look at their latest media release bit by bit.

Recfishwest warns greens groups are set to hijack Federal marine parks plan

Friday February 18, 2011

Western Australia’s recreational fishing peak body is calling on the Federal Government to consider carefully its zoning plans in establishing large Marine Parks covering up to 50 per cent of West Australian waters, saying our coastline is already adequately protected and the decision threatens an iconic way of life for some 600,000 West Australians.

Less than one percent of WA’s state and commonwealth waters are covered by marine sanctuaries.  Marine sanctuaries are the only form of marine protected areas that protect all fish and their habitat, and have been widely demonstrated by science (see previous blog post) to be highly effective in protecting threatened species, enhancing biodiversity, and helping to sustainably manage fishing.

The biggest threat to fishing in Western Australia is overfishing and the increasingly harsh fishing restrictions that necessarily flow from this. Marine sanctuaries are largely for conservation, but they could also be deployed to help insure against future overfishing, and to protect key feeding and breeding habitats that help to restock the surrounding fishing grounds.  In WA, sanctuaries may even be an essential fishing management tool – this was recommended to the state Fisheries Minister in 2009 in an independent report on how to best recover populations and sustainably manage demersal scalefish in WA (Fisheries Occasional Publication 65)

80% of Western Australians in a poll last year said they wanted to see much larger areas of our oceans protected. A question on fishing habits revealed many of these people went fishing.

Recfishwest Acting Executive Director Kane Moyle says well funded and highly organised environmental groups such as the Pew Environment Group and the World Wildlife Fund are applying significant pressure to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to establish more “no-go” sanctuary zones.

“These groups openly advocate for up to half of all Australian waters to be declared sanctuary zones, but this is going way too far and there is no hard evidence to suggest it will have any impact on fish stocks.” Mr Moyle said.

These groups are advocating for a network of marine sanctuaries to cover important environmental areas, not an arbitrary percentage.

There is plenty of hard evidence to demonstrate (not just suggest) a positive impact for fish stocks and other marine life.  Recfishwest would be aware of this evidence.

“In particular, Recfishwest is concerned about an imminent decision on Commonwealth bioregional marine planning in waters between South Australia’s Kangaroo Island and along the west coast as far north as Western Australia’s Abrolhos Islands. The area is of vital importance to not just the recreational fishing industry, but also WA’s commercial fishers and tourism.” Mr Moyle said.

“Recreational fishers are also some of the strongest conservationists at heart. It is in everyone’s interests to fish responsibly for the future, and it’s time for some balance to be brought back into the debate.”

Less than 1% protected – balance Kane?  True, the area is of vital importance to fishing, tourism, and with 90% unique marine life, also for conservation of species.  The impacts of historical and current overfishing is a huge threat to all of the livelihoods that depend on the sea, marine sanctuaries will underpin the future management that is required to protect this for the future.  For demersal reef fish, recfishers now take about half the current catch.  The Fisheries Department is trying to reduce this by half to stop the decline in populations of these fish, particularly the Western Australian Dhufish.

“These organisations take an “anti-fishing” approach and purport to be the voice of marine conservation. This is neither realistic nor necessary.“WA’s recreational fishers need to know that a pastime they consider to be a way of life is under serious threat.”

All organisation campaigning for marine sanctuaries in WA have no official position on fishing continuing outside of marine sanctuaries.  There are no ‘anti-fishing’ groups campaigning for marine sanctuaries in Australia.  Most groups actively argue that sanctuaries will also be good for fishing – that is hardly an ‘anti-fishing’ stance.  Recfishwest has dealt with most of these groups in the past. This is blatant scaremongering.

“What these environmental groups fail to recognise is that WA waters are already heavily controlled in terms of where, when and what type of fishing can occur. The State Government has already flexed its legislative muscle on marine conservation, with almost 40 per cent of our waters currently designated or proposed to be designated as Marine Parks.

40% of state waters are not in marine parks. Designated marine parks have no meaning or impact on fishing or conservation.  More importantly, marine Parks are not the same as marine sanctuaries.  Marine Parks, other than sanctuary zones, allow for fishing and do not have the benefits that marine sanctuaries bring.  This is misleading at best.

Many managed fish species are in decline, and are certainly not anywhere near historical levels. That is why there are heavy and increasing fishing restrictions in WA, and why the western rock lobster fleet has been slashed in the last few years.

“To add weight to their claims, these environmental groups are presenting data from severely over-exploited tropical systems in developing countries that bear little resemblance to Australia’s marine environment.”

This is not true. Many examples from Australia and NZ are presented.  I think these are not third world countries, and I think they bear some resemblance to Australia’s marine environment.  See some at my previous blog already linked, but here it is again.

Mr Moyle and several high profile recreational fishers are calling on the Federal Minister to ensure that recreational fishing interests, which are so much a way of life for many West Australians, are well considered before any decisions are made.

This bit is true.

See CCWA’s media release on this topic: http://www.ccwa.org.au/media/recfishwest-seeks-mislead-fishers-about-marine-sanctuary-plans

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