Aussie Anglers Badly Let Down says Salter
Former UK Angling MP Calls on NSW Politicians to Support More Recreational Fishing in Marine Parks
Last week the British Labour Party’s former Angling Spokesman, Martin Salter gave evidence to the New South Wales Parliamentary Inquiry into Recreational Fishing which is looking, amongst other things, at the controversial issue angling and Marine Parks which featured as a significant issue in the recent Australian Federal election. Mr Salter, who retired from the House of Commons in April and is living for a while in Sydney accused NSW politicians of providing poor representation for the State’s estimated 1 milion anglers who now have their own Fishing and Shooting Party. He put forward a plan to allow anglers in reciept of a special permit who practise ‘catch and release’ to be allowed to regain access to a majority of the Marine Park sanctuary zones from which they’ve been excluded.
In his submission of Mr Salter said;
“With three million anglers in a population of a little over 20 million that has just voted in a ‘hung’ federal parliament it is surprising that recreational anglers weren’t given greater attention by the two main political parties. The eve of poll statement by the Prime Minister on the highly controversial issue of further extensions to the Marine Parks programme, particularly on the Fraser Coast in QLD clearly came too late to prevent a voter backlash against sitting Labor members. The fact that people in Australia and NSW even feel the need to form and vote for specific ‘Pro-Fishing’ parties is, in my view, an admission of failure by the political establishment on these issues. Given the ill informed anti-angling bias that is prevalent amongst many of the more extreme green activists it is hardly surprising that thousands of voters who enjoy angling are feeling threatened and are looking for new leadership. This is in marked contrast to the UK where all the main political parties, with the exception of the Greens, readily signed up to the Manifesto for Angling produced by the countries national angling body, The Angling Trust.”
“It takes a rare genius in a country with superb fisheries, a massive and often pristine coastline and a comparatively small population to create such a large number of angry and disaffected citizens who simply want to go fishing. The problem is as much political as it is environmental and presents a challenge to which the mainstream politicians must respond. Nothing will ever placate the ultra-green extremists who wish to ban angling and would even make it illegal to keep animals for pets and who simply want to lock the human race out of large tracts of the earth and the oceans.”
Mr Salter contrasted the unhappiness of anglers in Australia with his own experiences in the UK where all the main political parties signed a joint manifesto pledge to support angling and where the recently introduced Marine Bill received strong support from the countries national angling governing body following ministerial assurances that recreational fishing would be permitted in a majority of the Marine Conservation Zones.
Mr Salter says;
“Although I’m supposed to be having a break from politics, as a paying NSW Recreational Fishing Licence holder I share the frustration of my fellow anglers who are being locked out of prime fishing grounds for no good reason in Marine Parks whose designation appears to be based on dodgy science and political dogma. Aussie anglers feel they have been badly let down by mainstream politicians who have failed to stand up to the anti-angling green extremists. Anglers are conservationists first and foremost, they are the eyes and ears of the waterside environment and locking them out of great swathes of the ocean makes no sense when their is not a single species of fish in Australian waters whose existence is endangered by recreational fishing alone.”
More Info: The full text of Mr Salter’s submission can be found here:
Summary of Evidence from Martin Salter, Former UK Parliamentary Angling Spokesman
Marine Parks and a Science-Based Approach
There is no doubt that properly managed Marine Parks are a good thing and an important management tool. However, they can only work by consent and, in particular, the consent and co-operation of those who regularly use, value and know about the areas covered by the Marine Park boundaries. It is clear that there will never be sufficient resources to properly police the boundaries and enforce the restrictions which is why community consent is so important.
From what I can see there have been problems in four areas - with the initial consultation processes, with the use of questionable or non existent scientific data to justify restrictions on angling in Sanctuary Zones, with the lack of comprehensive assessments of the restricted zones and with the basic failure to define exactly what it is that the marine environment requires protecting from ?
We should ask what species of fish in Australian waters are currently endangered solely by recreational angling ? The answer is of course none which is why there is little justification for excluding all forms of angling in most of the Sanctuary Zones. In fact, when it comes to either migratory fish species or highly mobile pelagic species it is a pretty pointless exercise and only increases pressure on other areas. Also, given that anglers are potentially the best enforcers of these zones against commercial abuse, if they were allowed access to them , the Marine Parks Authorities are losing valuable allies.
One of the greatest threats to both the marine environment and to healthy fish stocks is estuarine pollution usually caused by human activity or agricultural run-off and the loss of vital nursery areas such as mangroves and seagrasses. Every year huge numbers of fish eggs and fry perish as a result of acidification, eutrophication, chemical pollution and sedimentation. Simply locking anglers out of more and more areas of the ocean does absolutely nothing to resolve this most basic problem of habitat destruction and degradation.
A Way Forward - Recommendations
More Promotion and Education
- Much more needs to be done in the community to acknowledge the social , educational and environmental benefits of recreational angling. Education packs for all young anglers and the promotion of responsible angling in schools. Better communication with all licence holders to increase awareness of fisheries issues and angling opportunities and to encourage feedback.
- Properly quantify the number of anglers in NSW, the licence fee income and the overall contribution of the sport to the economy. 512,000 adult licences were sold on average annually over last 5 years, with the estimated total number of 900,000 - 1 million anglers in NSW including pensioners and young people who do not need a licence. A 2002 survey estimated angling worth $550m to NSW economy but the 2010 figure would be nearer to $800m. A more accurate assessment of numbers and economic impact will help make the politicians realise what an important constituency this is.
Marine Park Organisation
- End the arbitrary objective of establishing a set amount of waters to be designated as no take or no fishing zones and set out clear scientific and environmental criteria for the creation of Marine Parks and the establishment of Sanctuary Zones within the parks. Introduce a transparent process of assessment of impact including the social and economic consequencies of exclusions. Review the existing consultation procedures to allow for meaningful engagement and community consent. Consider a moratorium on new Marine Parks or Sanctuary Zone extensions until full assessments have been concluded.
- Relocate the Marine Parks Authority into the same department as NSW Fisheries with the establishment of a single body for administration and regulation.
- End the administrative distinction between Commonwealth and State Marine Parks by delegating enforcement, administration and budgets to the State Governments - afterall why have unnecessary duplication?
Stronger Representation for Recreational Anglers
- Promote the creation of a single, independent body to represent anglers and the angling trade at State and Federal levels. Funding could be provided through a tax break to the industry which then delivers a levy on tackle sold to help finance the organisations and perhaps boost the coffers of the existing fisheries trusts.
More Environmentally Friendly Fishing Practices
- Use the 2011 review of bag limits and promotion of better environmental practice by anglers.. eg.. Minimum sizes for keep sacks, phasing out of knotted mesh, increased use of barbless, semi barbless and circle hooks. Increase size limits to ensure that all species have the chance to mature and breed eg. Jewfish - currently 45cms which should be nearer 70cms and Kingfish - currently 65cms when maturity is reached at 70cms.
A Separate Permit for Sanctuary Zone Recreational Fishing.
-A separate and additional licence to be made available , for a fee, to existing licence holders wishing to be granted permission to fish in NSW Marine Park Sanctuary Zones in all but the most highly protected areas subject to the following restrictions and requirements.
- Catch and Release only
- Use of Circle or Semi- Barbless hooks only
- No fish whatsoever on board boats in MP areas save for live or dead baits
- All special licence holders to provide a monthly return to fisheries on catches and activity in the area
- A hotline number to instantly report abuses or incursions by commercials
- Advance notice to be given via email of intention to fish in a MP
- Local close seasons for specific species where a scientific case can be made
- The boat rego to be included on the special licence to aid enforcement
It will not be possible to completely unravel the existing network of Marine Parks but it is entirely possible to re-determine what they are for and what and who can use them. They must be administered rationally and with proper scientific justification for any restrictions imposed on otherwise lawful activities that can be undertaken within them. Currently, the lock out of recreational anglers means there is a lack of information, data and enforcement - it is the worst of all worlds. A special licensing system would address these problems, provide invaluable research material absolutely free of charge and ensure that only responsible and serious individuals fished these areas in the most environmentally conscious manner. Obviously in some of the Marine Parks there would be a proven scientific case for retaining a small, highly protected area within in which all human activity is prohibited - such as Grey Nurse Shark sanctuaries and the like. There is nothing in these proposals which would prevent this from occuring .
Select Committee Members
Chair: The Hon Robert Brown MLC
Deputy Chair: The Hon Tony Catanzaritit MLC.
The Hon. Robert BROWN (Shooters and Fishers Party, LC Member)
The Hon. Tony CATANZARITI (ALP, LC Member)
Mr Ian COHEN (The Greens, LC Member)
The Hon. Richard COLLESS (Nat, LC Member)
The Hon. Charlie LYNN (Lib, LC Member)
The Hon. Christine ROBERTSON (ALP, LC Member)
The Hon. Lynda VOLTZ (ALP, LC Member)
Main contact Rachel Simpson 9230 2898 9230 3416
Principal Council Officer John Young 9230 3464
Senior Council Officer Kate Mihaljek 9230 3544
Assistant Council Officer Lynn Race 9230 3504
Legislative Council, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Terms of Reference Establishing Committee
1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the benefits and opportunities that improved recreational fisheries may represent for fishing licence holders in New South Wales, and in particular:
(a) the current suite of existing regulatory, policy, and decision-making processes in relation to the management of recreational fisheries in New South Wales, including the process for the creation of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Parks and the efficacy of existing Marine Protected Areas and Marine Parks,
(b) the effectiveness and efficiency of the current representational system of trusts and advisory committees that advise government departments and statutory authorities,
(c) the value of recreational fisheries to the economy in New South Wales,
(d) the gaps in existing recreational fishery programs, including the number and location of Recreational Fishing Havens, and
(e) ecologically sustainable