No-go fishing zones, bait for amateur anglers
What do you call a fishing town with no fishing? Dead.
So you’d hope the South Australian government is genuine about wanting frank feedback on its idea of introducing 140 no-fishing zones along our coastline next year.
Some of my most enduring childhood memories involve tinnie boats and tangled lines. A day in the dinghy wasn’t just fun, it was an exercise in patience and perseverance, a bonding experience of family against fish, and on good days it was a few free meals for the freezer.
Like the vast majority of the state’s 236,000 amateur fishermen and women, I support sustainable fish stocks.
We adhere to bag and size limits knowing that these measures increase the chances of that delicious tap-tap-tap on the line next time around.
I’m not adverse to 19 marine parks accounting for 44 per cent of South Australian waters from the middle of next year, nor am I opposed to thoroughly-researched no-go fishing zones to protect marine biodiversity.
But I just can’t understand why 140 proposed fishing exclusion zones (24 per cent of SA’s coastline including popular spots around Robe, Middleton, Aldinga Beach, Hardwicke Bay, KI and Ceduna) have been thrown out for community feedback with all the grace of a hand grenade.
Are these exclusion zones government policy? No, they’re a “starting point for discussion – NOT a target”.
Are these exclusion zones aimed at replenishing fish stocks? No, that’s NOT the job of the Department of Environment and Heritage, which is in charge of this process. Fish maintenance is the job of the Primary Industries Department, PIRSA.
So what are they for? According to the DEH, they’re to protect marine biodiversity from pressures such as “population growth, climate change, pollution and demand for resources”.
Just how you’re going to diminish the effects of climate change by preventing a few people from fishing off a beach is beyond me. (And curiously, the heavily-populated, voter-centric areas of metro Adelaide are spared.)
What’s more certain is that regional coastal communities will be affected. Amateur anglers say it will decimate an industry that injects $1 million into the economy daily.
The SA Sea Rescue Squadron says no-fishing zones will force fishers out to sea and put them at “very grave” risk of injury or death.
Eighteen no-go zones have been proposed for Yorke Peninsula alone, where 43 per cent of domestic tourists visit specifically for fishing and 40 per cent of properties are holiday homes.
No-go fishing areas will be avoided, other spots will be over-fished. Everyone will be peeved and ultimately discouraged. And country businesses will bear the cost.
The government needs to be clear. If fish stocks are low, tell us which ones. If marine habitats are suffering, tell us where. And if there truly is a scientific argument against low-impact recreational fishing in certain areas, explain it.
If we are to blame, let’s consider some alternative options. Reduce bag limits, increase the size at which certain fish can be caught, introduce a minimal yearly fishing fee to fund stock replenishment and enforcement officers (in all my years of fishing I’ve never encountered one).
Where the environment is precious or stressed, limit commercial fishing that harms the sea floor or perhaps change the mesh size of nets to ensure greater selectivity.
So where are we at? Well, we’re at a point of angst, anger and confusion over proposed “scenarios” that can only be averted if the community demonstrates sufficient angst, anger and confusion.
Not surprisingly, we’ve got an abundance of all three.
By claiming these no-go zones are a “starting point” for discussion, the government is all but admitting they need to be changed. And they want feedback.
So give it to them: go online to www.marineparks.sa.gov.au, check out the impact in your favourite areas and express your opinions. If you think the whole thing stinks like three-day old fish, say so.
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