Marine parks in Australian waters

Anyone who has been a regular reader of this column will know I have been passionate about the topic of marine parks in Australian waters for several years.

At times anglers have faced some ridiculously severe lockouts under the guise of conservation, particularly when then Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke first announced the management plans for the marine park network in Commonwealth waters back in 2012.

At the time some of the lockouts were unconscionable and in no way linked to any scientific data, such as the closure of a section of the Rottnest Trench and Geographe Bay, two locations of incredible importance to recreational fishers in WA.

The good news was that the Labor Government was tossed out and the incoming Liberal Government promised to review the management plans.

This has been a laborious process but the good news is the review is now complete and the new draft management plans have been announced.

The revised plans are open to public comment for 60 days, finishing on September 20, and anyone keen to have their say (again) can do so, but personally I hope the plans as announced earlier this month are finally implemented.

It has been said of me that I am anti-marine parks, which is not true at all.

What I am against is locking anglers out of large areas of ocean for no good reason, and with no actual benefit.

Is the new management plan perfect for anglers?

No, of course not and there are still some lockouts which seem a tad draconian, but it is much better than Burke’s ill-conceived plan.

At the time that plan was announced I described it as a massive overkill akin to “filleting a herring with a chainsaw”.

However, I believe the latest management plans offer a good compromise that the recreational fishing community should be able to live with.

For example, the green zone (no fishing) at the Rottnest Trench has been moved so it does not interfere too significantly with recreational fishers, which are usually anglers trolling for the elusive marlin in the top couple of metres of what is a very deep water column and have virtually no environmental impact.

At the same time, that actual green zone has at the same time grown bigger, so there is a little bit of give and take for a reasonable result.

Will the usual Chicken Little green groups be satisfied?

Never, and they’ve already described the changes as “devastating”.

But then I suspect most of them wouldn’t be happy unless all lines were out of the water, so they were not likely to be pleased whatever the result of the review.

For the recreational fishing community though, it appears a far more balanced result which reflects our status as major stakeholders, and custodians, of our precious marine environment in Australia.

The plans can be found at http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/marine.

Caption: The new draft management plans for Commonwealth marine parks are good news for those who target marlin at the Rottnest Trench, and appear a fairer result for recreational fishers across the board.