Recfishwest remains focused on management strategies & science

Dr Andrew Roland spokesman for Recfishwest
A healthy marine environment is something we all desire, especially the many Australians who enjoy fishing recreationally.

Recfishwest is the peak body for recreational fishing in Western Australia and what we do is quite simple. Our role is to look after the best interests of recreational fishers living in WA. Our vision is to ensure sustainable recreational fishing resources.

It is understandable Recfishwest has recently become the target of a slanderous campaign given the strong influence we exert on decision makers. Our policies are being considered at state and national levels because they are drafted following extensive community consultation, are based on sound science and are free from emotive, political and monetary influences.

While we are working hard to ensure the appropriate management strategies are employed to protect our marine environment, these groups are resorting to the time-honoured attack of shooting the messenger when they have no credible evidence-based arguments.

Recfishwest is a community group funded by the State Government through WA recreational fishing licence monies. We believe our funding is better spent developing policies to make fishing a more rewarding experience rather than establishing campaigns that discredit groups whose ideologies do not align with those embraced by our organisation.

One particular policy of Recfishwest that some groups seem to be unclear about is that which relates to marine parks.

The fact is Recfishwest will support the introduction of marine protected areas provided there is scientific evidence to demonstrate these will offer necessary protection. However, we do not like to see recreational fishing families locked out of areas where they pose no threats.

For example, in Western Australia a marine park plan was recently unveiled in the South West which contained a sanctuary area to protect a seagrass habitat. Drifting for squid is a popular pastime in this area. There are no sustainability issues concerning squid and the manner in which they are targeted poses no meaningful threat to the seagrass habitats. Meanwhile no mooring management plan has been proposed to reduce damage from anchoring.

Science has proven that effective marine conversation requires a holistic approach with integrated management across catchments and coastal areas. The planning, design and management of marine protect areas requires careful consideration and these must be treated as another management tool rather than a magic bullet.

Marine protected areas have been recognised as an important tool for the conservation of marine biodiversity and fisheries management. But, these are complex instruments with fundamental differences whether applied for biodiversity conservation or fisheries management. When used for biodiversity conservation, they must be based on proper ecological research. In contrast, when applied as a fisheries management tool they must take a triple bottom line approach considerate of ecological, social and economic issues as well as existing fisheries management.

Recfishwest continually questions the drivers for expensive, inappropriate and confusing lines on the water when other management strategies could address real environmental threats far more effectively. We do not think that questioning the use of tax payers’ money in this regard is an unreasonable position.

Anti-fishing groups have resorted to releasing misconceptions and untruths in the media in an attempt to manipulate the public into believing that fortress conservation in the form of sanctuary zones are absolutely necessary to manage and protect Australian fish stocks.

Recreational fishers are among the strongest of conservationists at heart and include vocal and committed advocates for increased marine protection when clear conservation objectives are identified. For example, we have been successful in securing an investment of more than $2 million in Geographe Bay for the artificial reefs trial project and will continue to invest in the acclaimed world class fishery restoration project for black bream in the Blackwood River. In the north of the State we have seen the implementation of Australia’s first wilderness conservation area that allows high-quality fishing experiences while ensuring increased protection of aquatic habitats.

Recreational fishing in an integral part of the Australian cultural fabric and lifestyle. The message from the recreational fishing sector is simple. Don’t lock us out without clear science-based conservation objectives. Don’t be fooled by the doomsday green-wash. Real marine planning must address the real risks to our treasured marine environment.

More at recfishwest.org.au