Many of you will recall the campaign held by Keep Australia Fishing prior to last election to stop the disastrous Commonwealth Marine Park policy to lock recreational fisher out of 1.3 million square kilometres of Australia seas. But are we now facing potential lockouts?

On the back of the Coalition victory the new ABBOTT Government announced an independent Review into the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network that would focus on “future priorities” and “areas of contention”. The Review has recently completed its round of regional consultations.

A number of recreational fishing representatives reported that during the consultations they were told by the Review staff that recreational fishers were unlikely to have access to Marine National Parks (IUCN II) and that they should consider alternatives. In other words – no change to the previous process with recreational fishers locked out of Marine National Parks.

It appears that the Review may be making the same mistakes as the previous process and providing advise on what activities can take place in Marine National Parks by using unscientific terms such as ‘extractive’ and ‘no take’.

The use of such terms puts recreational fishers in the same category as industrial scale commercial fishing and oil and gas mining. Such terms do not recognise that recreational fishing can be adapted to minimise the impact of the activity on the marine environment, through the regulation of gear and through adoption of methods such as catch and release or selective targeting of species.

One recreational fisher commented, ”It’s like classifying a scuba diver as a submarine”.

It is clear that the use of such terms as ‘extractive’ and ‘no take’ by the Review to categorise recreational fishing represents a total lack of understanding of recreational fishing practices in Australia and this is disappointing and concerning.

Recreational fishers rightly expected a Review that based advice about access to marine reserves on scientific risk assessment rather than unscientific terms. For access to Marine National Parks (IUCN II) for example, this means a comparative risk assessment of all recreational activities, such as recreational fishing, diving and tourist activities.

It should also include assessments of impacts of other activities that are allowed in Marine National Parks, including cargo ships and defense activities.

If the science shows that marine areas are so environmentally sensitive that require limiting access for recreational fishers, then access for other recreational activities such as diving and tourism should also be assessed and appropriately limited, or the category should be changed (say to IUCN Ia or IUCN Ib).

The previous management plans were discriminatory as they excluded recreational fishing from vast areas of our seas, without any scientific justification. Yet diving, large-scale tourism, cargo, bulk carriers and even defense activities could still occur in these areas.

We understand the Review is still formulating its advice before reporting to the Government mid year. When it does, lets hope the Review has learnt from the mistakes of the previous process and the Government applies some common sense to the outcome.