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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Commonwealth marine parks management plan

As some people might be aware there was a vote in Parliament last week on a disallowance motion on the commonwealth marine parks management plans, which went against the interest of anglers and our marina environment 71-70.


A bit of background the marine parks first introduced in Victoria in 2002 up to the most recent commonwealth ones are known as the CAR model of marine parks

Comprehensiveness: The NRSMPA will include the full range of ecosystems recognised at an appropriate scale within and across each bioregion.

The NRSMPA will have the required level of reservation to ensure the ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and communities.
Representativeness: Those marine areas that are selected for inclusion in MPAs should reasonably reflect the biotic diversity of the marine ecosystems from which they derive. (Source: ANZECC TFMPA 1999, pp 15-16)

Why this model? it’s simple with this model they can introduce marine parks all across the state or country at once, meaning it’s harder for anyone to mount a fight against them. It was all outlined in the paper  
long and winding road: The development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of highly protected marine protected areas in Victoria, Australia” after the introduction of the 2002 Victorian marine parks. This paper is what I call their battle plan for introducing these marine parks all over our country and they followed this paper pretty closely. I encourage everyone to read the paper in full (link below)

The government process

There is a set process any government needs to follow when implementing these marine parks.

The first part of the process is to select the areas, these areas should reflect the criteria of the CAR model requirements, while allowing a consultation process with stake holders and the community. During this process there needs to be some science to identify not only the different types of habitat but to ensure that it is of an adequate size and that these areas hold a true representation of the type of biodiversity an area like this should hold. Basically these areas should be selected so that if something should happen to destroy all the other areas these protected areas would be enough to sustain the biodiversity with in them.

If you have a look at the areas selected to be protected you will notice a overrepresentation of reef/canyon type areas and very few other type of areas, I suspect that this was due to the fact that our government and environmental NGOs worked very closely with the dive groups and its more about keeping us out of there areas than anything else, in fact one area in the Coral Sea, Osprey Reef, the very science they used to lock out anglers clearly states that the shark feeding in the area has not only modified the behaviour of the sharks of the area but increased their numbers and changed the entire biodiversity of the area. The only reason they banned fishing was due to the fact that the sharks in this area now no longer follow their true migration path, they are less likely to enter non protected waters and be targeted by anglers, thus it would be a good idea to protect this area from fishing, they did not provide any information on the threat fishing poses to these sharks when fishing for reef species as is the case with the majority of recreational fishing in this area. Yet they not only allow shark feeding to continue but actively encourage it and use it as promotion on why we need these protection areas. 
The consultation process was high jacked right from the start the department received 487,435 submissions 99.76% of these were campaign type submissions organised by conservation groups only 0.1 % of the submissions received were recreational boating and fishing groups. But this alone doesn’t tell the whole story, once you start reading the submissions from the stake holders it becomes very clear that the government simply ignored most of what they had to say.
Once the areas are selected it’s time to work out the management plans for each and every one of these areas, and this is where the government excelled in its incompetence, before you can work out what is and is not allowed to take place in these marine parks you need to identify and evaluate the threats to these areas, these management plans have not been preceded by the necessary and appropriate risk assessment and the risks to the area have not adequately been identified and management prioritised in proportion to the magnitude of the threat.

It is very simple if you don’t even understand the threats to the areas you are trying to protect, then what do you protect them from?
The answer is even simpler, pick a nice soft target that you can blame of all the bad things happening in our marine environment mount a campaign to convince the general public that this group is the biggest single threat to our marine environment and you are set. Minister Burke claims these areas are now fully protected yet in the same breath claims that they will not affect recreational anglers as they don’t go to these areas and only 1% of commercial fishing will be affected. Fully protected by banning the people you say don’t go to these areas, surely that alone has to be ringing some major alarm bells you would think.

This is a recreational fishing advocacy blog but I know there are many from the environmental groups reading what’s written on these pages, I ask you a very simple question, are you not concerned that the treats to these fully protected areas were never even identified? 
We had the opportunity to do something real about protecting our marine environment and instead all those entrusted with this job chose to use this opportunity to attack fishing instead and the price for this? Well possibly the future of our marine environment! Hope it was worth it!

The government used the frame work of the IUCN to ban anglers, Minister Burke made all Australian IUCN category II areas the no fishing areas, below are two explanations of what an IUCN II national park should do. 

Category II: National park
Protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

Primary objective
To protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes, and to promote education and recreation.

II: National Park

Similar to the objectives of Wilderness Areas, National Parks provide protection for functioning ecosystems, but tend to be more lenient with human visitation and the supporting infrastructure. National Parks are managed in a way that may contribute to local economies through promoting educational and recreational tourism on a scale that will not reduce the effectiveness of conservation efforts. The surrounding areas of a National Park may be for consumptive or non-consumptive use, but should nevertheless act as a barrier for the defence of the protected area's native species and communities to enable them to remain sustainable in the long term.
According to those explanations I fail to see how one of the world’s best managed fisheries can be banned, but the true potential of the problem is yet to truly emerge. As well as our marine environment we also have IUCN category II parks on our land, all Australian National Parks are classified as IUCN category II, and at the time this blog was written Minster Burke as failed to answer whether this reclassification of IUCN category II will have ramifications on our terrestrial national parks. As I understand it if an IUCN category II marine park bans fishing then it must also ban fishing on a IUCN category II terrestrial national park.

What are the threats to these areas you may ask? Well using science from the marine environment in general and other areas in the world, we can identify a number of very major threats, but unfortunate each area is different and unless we undergo detailed analyses of each area we simply will not know.

During this marine park process we had two ships that if it wasn’t for pure luck would have ran aground in shallow uncharted reefs in the Coral Sea, yet the management plans don’t address this threat at all. But shipping poses a much greater threat than just a few ships running aground and spilling their guts all over our reef as happened in 2010 on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s no widely accepted that noise pollution from shipping is the major contributor to our sea mammals beaching’s, not only that but it’s believed that this noise pollution is making it difficult for the whales to communicate, as well as altering their migration route putting them at great risk of starvation as they need to go around the areas that contain there food.  In the last ten years more whales have died due to ship strikes then have been hunted by all the nations hunting whales.
Yet they ban fishing in these areas to protect the whales, but do nothing about this, I am not quite sure what danger or threat dragging a few lures on the surface of the water poses to the whales but I am sure minister Burke can give an explanation.
In general the biggest threat to our marine environment comes from what we do on land, the majority of our marine species rely on in one way or another on our fragile estuaries. Even with species like our Black Marlin that Burke now claims id fully protected in the Coral Sea uses the lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef for its nursery area, the same area that has been devastated by multiple fish kills in the last few years. Recent science has shown that even with the species targeted by recreational fishing and the commercial industry, that we are having far less impact then once believed. We have one of the best managed fisheries in the world we should be used as an example to the rest of the world not unfairly attacked by our own government.

The disallowance motion.

The coalition last week brought forward a disallowance motion on the management plans for our marine parks. There has been some, well let’s call them “mistakes” in the reporting of this as well as some members of parliament that I don’t think quite understood what was going on, this disallowance motion was just for the management plans of the marine parks not on the areas selected as marine parks, you might have heard Minister Burke in parliament telling everyone that some of these marine parks were created by the Howard Government, and he is correct in that, but the management plans for even those marine parks created by the Howard Government is what the Labor government designed and that just need to pass in the senate to be law.
Which brings up the next “mistake: If this disallowance emotion was to be vote in, this would not open up the doors for oil and gas to run amuck. At the time when all these marine parks were declared there was a set of transition management plans put in place.

Transitional management arrangements

Transitional management arrangements have been implemented for the new marine reserves to cover the period during which the statutory management plans are developed and then given effect in July 2014. There will be no changes in "on the water" activity for any users during this period.
Under the EPBC Act, any activity in a marine reserve requires approval from the Director of National Parks during the period between proclamation of the reserves and the implementation of a management plan. This applies to existing commercial activities including those that involve the taking of native species (fishing). The approval from the Director of National Parks is issued under section 359B of the EPBC Act. Approval can be given to both individuals and to classes of persons, and can be issued with or without conditions on the approved activity.

During this process in parliament we mounted a phone and email campaign, targeting those that carried the deciding vote, I personally spoke to Mr Rob Oakeshott’s office and was assured that he would read the information I sent him, as it played out Mr Rob Oakeshott voted against the disallowance motion and against Australian recreational anglers, and it was quite evident with his media release the day after the vote that he hadn’t read a word of what I wrote to him, I was simply lied to.
With a disallowance motion the government has 15 sitting day to take it to a vote, Minister Burke chose to take it to a vote on the same day, he obviously understood that we were gaining momentum, and give a few more days would have provided the correct information to the right people to make a difference, we even received phone calls from members of his own party asking us to clarify some issues, and let me tell you they were to happy that they were misled on this issue, but at the end we simply ran out of time. A huge credit should go to those that participated in the phone and email camping, the response was overwhelming.  Which clearly shows that Minister Burke’s statement in parliament that anglers are simply not concerned with this issue couldn’t be further from the truth.
Since the vote Minister Burkes Facebook page has been bombarded with comments from recreational anglers asking questions and voicing their disappointment to the point where his Facebook page has come to a standstill with him being unable to post about any other subject, at the time of writing this blog, the count of anglers that have been banned from his page stood at over 1200, there are a number of Facebook pages that have formed since. With anglers that have been banned from his page.  

By all means jump on Minster Burkes Facebook page and let him know what you think, I understand that you might be a “little” angler but please keep the comments clean you represent recreational anglers and don’t give him a legitimate reason to ban you, please take a screen shot of your message in case you are banned but it appears he has stopped banning people as more would simply appear.

Where to from now 
We have major actions planned for and leading up to the federal election. Please stay tuned and anyone that can help on election day please send an email to  with the election and the electorate you are in as the subject line.

We are currently looking for assistance in the following electorates, more will be added in the following weeks.

Rob Oakeshott  Lyne
Tony Burke Watson
Darren Cheesman  Corangamite
Laura Smyth  La Trobe

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