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Trotter’s Take On The SHMS

By Dan Trotter on October 27, 2010 in Sport

In last month’s issue of The Beast there was an article titled ‘Marine Sanctuary Gathers Support’. In light of this article and the accompanying image of a speared Western Blue Groper many people have been outraged. To set the facts straight, the fish in the photograph was taken legally and not in NSW waters. In fact, it has been illegal to spear Eastern Blue Groper in NSW since 1969 and for a while it was illegal to take them via any methods of line fishing, such was the concern over their declining population levels. In 1980 Eastern Blue Groper were given full protection from commercial fishing and at the same time the ban on recreational line fishing for them was lifted. In the 30 years since, Eastern Blue Groper populations throughout NSW waters have recovered to such a level that the stock status of these fish is now considered robust and stable by NSW Fisheries.

Locally, there are also a number of robust populations of Eastern Blue Groper (the smaller females are actually brown, with only the larger dominant specimens, representing the male in any given home range, being blue). Over the last few years Waverley and Randwick councils, in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) and a number of universities, have undertaken an acoustic tagging research program to learn more about the habits and home ranges of the fish in these important tourist locations. The research is currently being collated and will be available soon.

From speaking to a number of people it would seem that the main aim of this research project was to look at whether further protection for the local populations was necessary and, if so, how to provide this protection so that locals and tourists alike are able to observe and enjoy these friendly fish for years to come. If the findings support the need for an extension of the existing aquatic reserve and the extension of the area where it is prohibited to take blue groper by any means of fishing, this would be a win for both the groper and the viewing public, as well a win for local anglers who would be allowed to continue to fish for other species throughout the area.

With this in mind, it would seem like a much better solution to tackle the issues at hand, rather than pressing forward with a proposal for the South Head Marine Sanctuary, which is based on emotive motivations rather than hard science.

I would also like to add that Marine Sanctuaries are about conserving marine biodiversity. The major factors threatening this biodiversity are water pollution from urban, industrial and agricultural run-off, climate change and ocean acidification, and not as the proponents of the SHMS would have you believe, recreational fishing and spear fishing.

Finally, as you can now understand, simply drawing a line in the water does not offer full protection to the organisms living within those boundaries, and let’s face it, weedy sea dragons and blue groper are already offered far greater protection than the swordfish and tuna most of you enjoy eating at your local restaurants. If you want to know more about the real issues facing the over-fished species of our oceans, watch ‘The End of The Line’.
My usual monthly fishing prediction will be back in full swing next month, but if you can’t wait, check out our 2Dans Fishing radio show at 5am on Sunday mornings on 2GO – 107.7FM, join our 2Dans Facebook fan-page or subscribe to our blog at for loads of fishy info and local reports.
Until then, you’ll find me fishing!