Martin Salter - working hard for Reading West

Anglers are True Protectors of Ocean

WITH three million anglers in a population of 20 million, it is surprising that recreational fishing hasn’t been given greater political attention.

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.

Given the ill-informed anti-angling bias that is prevalent amongst many of the more extreme Greens, it is hardly surprising that thousands of voters who enjoy fishing are feeling threatened and are looking for new leadership.

It takes a rare genius in a country with superb fisheries, a massive and pristine coastline and a comparatively small population to create such a large number of angry and disaffected citizens who simply want to go fishing for fun. Both sides of politics in Australia have done their best to alienate Aussie anglers.

Despite their recent posturing, it was the last Coalition government which brought in the Marine Parks Act in 1997 and set up the ludicrous bureaucracy which ignores fishery science in the process of designation and assessment.

Labor realised too late the electoral damage that the marine park lock-outs demanded by the Greens were doing to its core vote. In my short time fishing in this wonderful country I’ve already met plenty of former Labor voters worried at the price their party may have to pay for Green preferences.

Labor would be mad to sub-contract its environmental policy to the Greens. Nothing will placate the zealots in their ranks who wish to ban angling.

As a paying NSW recreational fishing licence holder, I share the frustration of fellow anglers who are locked out of fishing grounds for no good reason than an increasing number of marine parks.

Anglers are conservationists. It was the internationally renowned conservationist David Bellamy who described us as ” the eyes, ears and guardians of the waterside”. Locking anglers out of great areas of ocean makes no sense when there is not a single species of fish in Australian waters endangered by recreational fishing.

At the recent parliamentary inquiry into recreational fishing, Al McGlashlan and I put forward a plan to allow anglers in receipt of a special permit who practise “catch and release” to be allowed access to a majority of the marine park sanctuary zones from which they’ve been excluded. Let’s hope the politicians are listening and perhaps, instead of clamping down on their fellow citizens with a rod and line whose impact on fish populations is not only properly regulated but negligible, they turn their attention to the real threats to fish stocks. As any fishery scientist will tell them, these include inshore pollution, sedimentation and agricultural chemical run-off.

Recreational fishing and boating is a huge part of the lifestyle here in Australia. It is worth over $10 billion to the economy and sustains thousands of jobs. Kids who fish are less likely to get caught up in drugs and crime and fishing is a great way for them to learn more about the environment. Let’s hope the politicians are listening and that the inquiry findings are the beginning of a new deal for long-suffering anglers.