Home' Afloat : AFLOAT April 2016 Contents Take monthly with water April 2016 53
ON THE WATER with David Lockwood
Have your say on Sydney’s
The big news this month is the release of the Discussion Paper
for the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment by
the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) and their
“suggested initiatives” including such things as “spatial management
for biodiversity conservation and use sharing.” Read no-fishing, no
anchoring and other restricted-access areas.
As we exist today, Australia has the world’s largest network of
marine reserves protecting more than 3.1 million square kilometres
of the marine environment. In addition to Commonwealth protected
marine areas, the states and the Northern Territory also have laws
dedicated to the declaration and management of marine park areas
in their jurisdictional waters.
The Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion crosses State and
Commonwealth jurisdictions and goes well beyond its inferred
nomenclature. The area extends from Stockton just north of Newcastle
to Shellharbour beyond Wollongong. It covers the coastline, estuaries,
bays, harbours, lakes and lagoons, beaches and ocean waters out
to the Continental Shelf, roughly 20nm offshore.
However, NSW state waters extend no further than 3nm offshore.
It is here, within this coastal strip, that two thirds of the population
of NSW live. Of those roughly five million people, the majority
partake in some form of coastal activity and are therefore impacted
by marine management decisions from MEMA.
Within the state waters of the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion
there are already at least 10 aquatic reserves, as well as major marine
reserves like that at Bouddi, and countless fishing restrictions. Bouddi
and Wybung Head, plus Manly Wharf and Cove, Chowder Bay and
Magic Point, have all been identified for (near) future protection.
According to the Discussion Paper compiled by MEMA,
recreational fishing and boating are high-risk activities in the
bioregion. This is despite bag and size limits, which are flexible
mechanisms, and proven fisheries’ management tools. And despite
no overfished rec fish stocks in this bioregion.
FISHING AND BOATING DEEMED
THREATS TO THE ENVIRONMENT
In fact, recreational fishing and boating are listed as priority
threats to the environment and to threatened and protected species
and rates on par with sewage, dredging, stormwater discharge and
climate change, according to MEMA. Given the good health of our
fisheries and the time-proven existing management tools, this
comes as a shock.
In fact, recreational fishing and boating are considered by this
discussion paper to be of greater risk to marine habitat, threatened
and protected species, than commercial fishing, charter fishing,
and aquaculture. A man with a hook has a bigger impact than a
trawler with a net. A boater doing a Sunday lunch on the hook is
under threat, too
What science led to this conclusion I’m not sure, but every
angler, commercial fisher and waterway user has a shared interest
in sustainable fishing. As has been said elsewhere: the relevance
and robustness of fisheries-related science and research is often
subjected to debate between competing interests.
Government departments will tell you they haven’t the
expertise to determine the validity or otherwise of the science
and research on which their environmental regulation is based.
Usually, a range of public and private sector bodies undertake the
research and data collection relevant to
fisheries management, including private
companies, universities and government,
as well as joint industry/government research bodies,
who sometime use volunteers. There are agendas.
A lawyer like Atticus Finch would stand up in the courtroom,
thump his fist and ask: what species have been identified as
threatened or endangered by angling? Why don’t we identify those (if
they do exist) and apply our existing management tools? And is this
science upon which you base your management initiatives unbiased?
The NSW state fish, the blue groper, is in absolute abundance
these days. In fact, studies show that the blue groper is more common
outside marine reserves than in them. Individual fish management,
so successful for this species are spearfishing bans, makes perfect
sense. Find the problem and address it. Is a blanket strategy really
the best form of management?
MEMA puts forward eight suggested management initiatives
in the discussion paper. Some will solicit universal support, while
others will be grounds for concern. They include:
1. Improving water quality and reducing marine litter.
2. On-ground works for healthy coastal habitats and wildlife.
3. Marine research to address shipping and fishing knowledge
4. Spatial management for biodiversity conservation and sue
5. Improving boating infrastructure.
6. Reducing user conflicts in Pittwater.
7. Improving accessibility.
8. Land use planning for coasts and waterways.
While interest groups such as the Boat Owners Association and
the Boating Industry Association were expected to have private
meetings with relevant waterways departments about these very
issues, the workshops being staged by MEMA were loaded with
council, conser vation, dive group and pro-marine park lobby groups.
Angling representation was notable by its absence.
MEMA advocates community consultation. But trying to get a
look-in at its inconvenient meetings isn’t easy. It’s advised against
promoting the meeting venues in the media. It’s all very hush-hush.
Yet again, this surprises me and seems like a recipe to promote
disharmony. Certainly those advocating for change will be shouting
from the rooftops or down their snorkels.
Recreational fishers and boaters are by their very nature a
lackadaisical lot. Environmental warriors are quite the opposite.
It should be up to everyone to be heard not just paid lip service.
We also seek a positive outcome and no-one I know is opposed to
proper science. It’s just the polluted kind backed by agenda funding
that pervades policy-making today.
William Gladstone, Professor and Head of School of the
Environment, University of Technology Sydney, got it so very right
in his article “Marine Parks for fish and people: here’s how to do it.
Have your say at http://www.marine.nsw.gov.au/key-initiatives/hawkesbury-
shelf-marine-assessment. Submissions close Sunday April 24.
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