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Fishing Ban ‘Just Government Angling for Votes’

By Siriol Dafydd on September 23, 2018 in News

Good things come to those who bait, by John Dory

The NSW Government has issued a proposal that intends to ban fishing across 25 sites between Newcastle and Wollongong. These areas include Bronte to Coogee, along with several other popular local fishing spots in Sydney.

According to the NSW Marine Estate, the idea is “to reduce risks at a local scale from some site-based threats, while helping to conserve marine biodiversity”. By splitting restrictions across 25 sites rather than one big marine park, the aim is to allow “for a wide range of recreational and commercial activities to still occur”.

Sceptics have raised the question of whether this is really about marine protection or if it’s just a political ploy by the Berejiklian government. Robert Brown, NSW MLC for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has been quoted in the press saying, “Inner City Liberals are sitting on smaller margins than they were in 2011 so they created this as a way to claw back green votes…We’re coming after their seats.”

But political squabbling aside, what do local fishermen think about the proposed changes? By locking recreational fishermen out of 43 kilometres of coastline, the ban will remove one of the last remaining free activities that long-term locals can enjoy. And with 60 per cent of Sydney Harbour already off limits because of sanctuary zones, naval zones, shipping lanes and lack of foreshore access, fishers will now have to move to riskier locations at their own peril.

NSW Recreational Fishing Alliance President, Stan Konstantaras told The Beast, “Fishers are a very low threat and have minimal impact on marine biodiversity.”

“Priority threats like pollution, over development and habitat degradation have been ignored by the Marine Estate Management Authority,” he said.

Long-term local fishers know and respect marine life. They contribute $15 million a year ($35 per fishing licence) towards compliance, habitat action and education. They support catch and size limits and follow localised recovery plans if species are threatened. So what are we really achieving by punishing local fishermen when they arguably give more of a shit about marine life than most?

Greg Maidment has enjoyed recreational shore-based line fishing between Bondi and Coogee his entire life.

“I see the ban as being politically and socially ill-conceived,” he told The Beast.

“I am retired and fishing is important to me as a recreation which I can pursue from local areas that are both safe and likely to provide a feed.

“I have felt worried since the announcement and my wellbeing has suffered.

“Marine reserves, which generally permit fishing, already exist between Bondi and Coogee. Biodiversity and fish numbers are not said to be in bad shape… There is no evidence specific to this area or to other proposed zones to demonstrate that shore-based fishing has had an adverse effect upon biodiversity.”

Bronte fisherman Jack Johnson echoed Mr Maidment’s concerns.

“It’s the biggest joke,” he said. “I think they’re just doing it to get votes. Because people today are so politically correct, they think everyone’s gonna just jump on it and say, ‘save the oceans’.

“When we were younger and the surf wasn’t good, we’d go fishing. If we weren’t fishing, we’d have been out causing trouble. I wouldn’t want to bring my kids up not being able to fish.

“Families can’t even have a glass of wine down the beach and now they want to take fishing away from us? It’s a joke. I could understand if all the fish stock was depleted, but it’s not.”

According to the official NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy, recreational fishing generates $3.4 billion annually in economic activity and creates the equivalent of 14,000 jobs. It also states that fishing offers considerable health benefits and is an inclusive pastime with a long history in NSW.

These are the government’s own statistics, so why then would they prohibit recreational fishing when its impact on biodiversity is seemingly small potatoes compared to other massive issues we’re facing?

Public consultation on the proposal closes on September 27, so unless you’ve gotten your mitts on The Beast early, it’s out of our hands. The outcome should be revealed over the next few weeks (or months – it is state government after all), so for now all we can do is wait – and go fishing while we still can.

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