Marine Park Q&A: The REEL Facts On Tony Burke’s Big Lockout!
On November 16, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that recreational fishers will be locked out of around 1.3 million square kilometres of Aussie oceans. Never in our history have recreational fishers been locked out of such a vast area. To date the Minister has not provided a reason as to why he has taken such a harsh stance to Aussie fishos. We'll run through the marine park process and explore those questions we want answers to.
Frequently Asked Questions
OK, they are locking us out! What happens now?
Minister Burke has announced what is called the “proclamation” stage of developing the Commonwealth Marine Park network. When he proclaims a marine reserve system he is defining the boundaries or zones of the reserve and the types of reservation. The next steps are:
- The Governor General will make the marine reserve network law.
- Marine park management plans are developed over the next 18 months.
- The marine park plans are implemented. This will happen by 2014, based on the latest estimates.
What happens until the marine park plans are implemented?
An interim management plan is put in place. The interim plan is a “status quo” plan. While it is in place and until the final plan is implemented, we can continue to fish the areas we do now in the way we do now.
When will we be locked out?
If we are unsuccessful in persuading the Government to change its mind, recreational fishers will be locked out forever from July 1, 2014. At this time the management plans are proposed to be implemented and the law associated with the plans will be activated. In other words, if ever you wanted to fish the iconic fishing spots Mr Burke plans to lock up, you have until July 2014 to do it!
What is the process for the management plans?
The Government will develop management plans for the marine reserves located in the Coral Sea, East Temperate, South West, North West and Northern bioregions. There will be one plan developed for each region. The Government will have two 30-day consultation periods where it will seek submissions on the management plans. The first consultation period has started and will end on December 18. The second consultation period is likely to be in early 2014, prior to the finalization of the plan. Details on management plans can be obtained at http://www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves/management.html
Minister Burke says that the marine reserves are so far out to sea that they won’t affect us. Is that true?
No. The marine reserves vary in their distance from the shore. The lockout zones range from three nautical miles to hundreds of nautical miles. For instance, the marine parks in WA’s Geographe Bay are very close to shore and will definitely adversely affect all the mums, dads and the kids who want to fish there during their holidays. Other areas destined for lock-up are further from shore but are widely regarded as being some of the most iconic fishing spots in the world. These include places like Marion, Shark and Osprey reefs in the Coral Sea and Dampier in Western Australia. These places, and many others, are “bucket list” fishing destinations. Mr Burke knows that but he’s locking them up anyway.
What do we do to the marine environment that warrants being locked out?
This is a key question that we have not been able to get an answer to. The Minister can’t – or won’t – answer us on this issue. What is more perplexing is when you have a look at what values these marine parks are created for. For example, the Perth Canyon Marine Park is created to protect blue and humpback whales.
When was the last time you hooked a blue whale when out fishing?
In addition, while we will be banned from fishing around the Perth Canyon Marine Park, industrial shipping, defense activities and non-fishing related tourism continues to be allowed. If we’re locked out because of our supposed “impact” on the environmental values the Government wants to protect, then why are these other activities allowed? Surely a blue whale faces more threat from being run over by a giant oil tanker or blown up by Navy gun practice than it does from recreational fishermen?
Why are we opposing these marine parks?
We don’t oppose marine parks! All responsible recreational fishers know that we need to protect the environment so that we have healthy, diverse and sustainable fisheries into the future. Throughout the current marine parks process we have continually told Minister Burke that we support science-based marine parks. However, it has become increasingly clear that the Minister’s decisions are being influenced more by pressure from green extremists than they are by credible science. We don’t agree with that! Our clear policy is that if there’s reputable science indicating recreational fishing is causing problems to the marine environment, then we will work with the government of the day to deliver a raft of management options, which could include closures and access restrictions. But if there’s no science demonstrating that well managed recreational fishing is irrevocably damaging marine eco-systems, we don’t accept unjustified lockouts, especially when other users groups are either allowed in or are generously compensated. The fact is that recreational fishers are the only group being summarily locked out with no justification and no recourse to compensation. Surely it’s fair enough for us to say to Mr Burke and his Government that we don’t that is fair or reasonable?
What are the zones in the Marine Reserve Network?
There are a number of zones that the Government has used to establish the Commonwealth Marine reserve network. These zones provide for various levels of environmental protection through limiting activities within them. The highest level of protection is the Marine National Park Zone, or IUCN II. This is the zone that recreational fishers are locked out of, though other activities such as shipping, defense and non-fishing related tourism are allowed. Again, if this zone is to provide the highest level of environmental protection, why do they let these activities in?
Can the plan be changed so we don’t get locked out?
Yes. The management plans that lock us out of the Marine National Parks (IUCN Category II) can be changed. There are examples such as Ningaloo National Marine reserve that is an IUCN category II zone but which allows recreational fishing. See http://www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves/north-west/ningaloo/maps.html.
Access to the Marine National Park zone is determined by the Director of National Parks, at the discretion of the Minister. In other words, we need to get Minister Burke to change his mind and unlock the Marine Park gate for us! If he doesn’t do it, we will have to find some one who will!
Why won’t Mr Burke change his mind?
There has been considerable speculation around why Minister Burke and the Labor Government are anti–recreational fishing on this issue. One view that is emerging is that when the Labor Government formed its coalition with the Greens following the last federal election, one of the conditions imposed by the Greens was that a strong anti-fishing position had to be adopted by the Government for any future Marine National Parks. This hard-line position certainly aligns with that of Pew, the US-based anti-fishing organisation which has been driving the marine parks campaign in Australia.
If this is true, it would explain why the Labor Government will not budge on this issue. Just recently Minister Burke told a group of recreational fishing leaders in Canberra that he will not consider allowing recreational fishing in Marine National Parks (IUCN category II).
If we are locked out, what do we lose?
We lose access to 1.3 million square kilometres of our seas around Australia. This includes some of Australia’s most
iconic and world-renowned fishing spots, including Marion Reef, Shark and Osprey reefs in the Coral Sea, areas off Dampier, the Perth Canyon and inshore grounds around Geographe Bay. These areas will be locked up FOREVER!
But what we also lose is the basic right to go fishing. Our cultural and traditional rights to wet a line are being unilaterally taken away without any sound scientific rationale as justification. If we accept this, then that sets a precedent that will almost certainly see more and more lockouts into the future. This is not the legacy we want to leave future generations of Aussie fishos.
But it doesn’t affect me. Why should I care?
Many people may become complacent about this decision because it may not immediately affect them. The trouble is with this sort of “not in my backyard” viewpoint is that doing nothing gives the green light for future lockouts. Anti-fishing groups are already saying that the Government should have put more bans on fishing. Minister Burke’s plans will see Australia own 75 per cent of all the marine reserves in the world – yet the green extremists want more. Lots more, in fact. So if we just all sit on our hands about this current lock-out crisis, it is more than likely that in the not-too-distant future a big new no fishing zone will lock you out of your favourite fishing spot, no matter if you live in the north, south, east or west. We need to stop this dangerous precedent now, for the sake of future fishos - for the sake of our kids.
Do we get compensation?
No. The Government is only recognising the commercial fishing sector for compensation. Recreational Fishers will not be compensated for loss of fishing rights or opportunity. Fishing charter operators, shops and communities that support our recreational fishing sector will not be compensated.
What can I do to help stop the ‘Lock Out!’?
You can help stop unjustified marine park lock-outs by supporting Keep Australia Fishing. Become a supporter and stay tuned to our Facebook page and we will keep you informed on how you can help!