Marine Parks: The greenies are getting it wrong
We need marine parks.
That very statement is going to land me in hot water with thousands of Australian recreational anglers, whose pasttime, and in some cases livelihood, is under genuine threat from the implementation of marine sanctuaries and no-fishing zones around the country.
I say it, though, to make it known right off the bat that I am an environmentalist, and have been a Greens voter in the past. You won’t find many anglers who believe that protecting our oceans isn’t crucial, and it is in this sense the truth has been lost in an ongoing heated debate.
The ‘us and them’ battle for access to fishing spots has painted us bloodthirsty murderers and the Marine Parks Authority as knights in shining green armour.
In reality, anglers are generally far more passionate and environmentally conscious than most of the people I meet; the types of people who sternly remind me of the dire situation our oceans are in while munching on their tuna sushi rolls or fish and chips.
Let it be known: most recreational anglers want marine parks. What we don’t want is marine parks in their current form.
For God’s sake, hand down tighter bag limits and bracketed size limits to protect large breeding fish. Please, create no-take zones like those so effective in our native freshwater fisheries during important spawning times for demersal species. By all means, implement catch-and-release-only zones and lure-fishing only zones in some areas.
Ban the use of stainless steel hooks and make lead sinkers things of the past. Limit and strictly monitor commercial quotas even further. Get more Fisheries officers out on the water to enforce the rational rules that, in many cases, are already in place.
Make sense? Of course, but such practical measures for protecting our recreational fisheries also sound like a lot of work, planning, money, communication and genuine scientific research. Wouldn’t it be easier to just cordon off massive sections of known fish-holding areas and slap a blanket ban on all forms of fishing in them? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you marine parks as they currently exist.
News flash: fish swim, a lot.
Like us, their movement is often motivated by the availability of food and sex, but other factors we can’t relate to as much, including tide, moon phase, barometric pressure and water temperature/quality play their part, too. Closures and restrictions relating to recreational angling should take the mobility of fish and the seasonal and biological factors that influence it into account.
I know the thought of a huge area of protected happy fish warms the cockles of the heart, but there are more practical measures to take that will probably do our fisheries more good while being fair to those that love getting out on the water and wetting a line.
I do not feel comfortable with the fate of my access to my favourite fisheries resting in the hands of environmentalist groups whose very methods of research and implementation betray they have never held a fishing rod in their lives.
The dark days of full iceboxes of slaughtered fish and trophy weigh-ins are in the past. Catch-and-release is sweeping recreational fishing and more anglers than you’d think are extremely conscious of their impact.
The bad eggs remain, and bloodthirsty redneck anglers are still, unfortunately, out there. Know though that they do not represent a majority of fishing Aussies, most of whom are only disgruntled about the management of our fisheries and marine parks because they are not being involved in the process.
The moral high ground of “the better interest of our fisheries and planet” that the marine parks advocates like to claim in their defence of no-take reserves shrinks to the size of an anchovy if you take the time to actually discuss the issue with an informed recreational angler.
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