Concerns mount over beach driving bans and dog exclusions in proposed south coast marine park

Being able to drive on the beach to your favourite fishing spot to wet a line is what makes living on the south coast so great.

And for those with dogs, taking your canine friend along for the ride merely adds to the enjoyment.

However, we are hearing increasing concerns from south coast fishers that these freedoms (which are already restricted on some beach stretches) could be under serious threat in the proposed south coast marine park with DBCA’s track record in park management.

These concerns are understandable with a catalogue of closures and bans imposed by DBCA on fishers and beach-goers across the State:

A track record of blocking tracks

Many fishers, particularly on the south coast, will be familiar with abrupt loss of vehicle access in areas managed by DBCA – as these examples (just a few of many) illustrate:

  • Following frequent south coast rains, track closures in areas such as Cape Arid National Park, Nuytsland Nature Reserve, and Stokes National Park are common. Current restrictions in these areas are severely limiting access to popular fishing spots such as Poison Creek, Thomas River and Stokes Inlet. Poor weather and track closures throughout winter is already the norm here – additional restrictions in the new marine park are the last thing the local community wants to see.
  • Elsewhere, the Boranup and wider South-west community still have their vehicle access to South Beach blocked after DBCA suddenly and unexpectedly dumped several large boulders across the track at Hooley Road. Despite Recfishwest calling on the Environment Minister to restore access, neither DBCA nor the boulders have budged.
  • Middle Quarram Track, located near Denmark in the Quarram Nature Reserve, was closed indefinitely in March of last year “until declared safe” according to a DBCA parks alert due to a build-up of soft sand. No diversion has been put in place since and there has been no indication from DBCA of plans for the track to reopen.
  • In the Shark Bay Marine Park, driving below the high-water mark is only allowed in designated areas throughout the park, and is completely prohibited in recreational zones and sanctuary zones.
  • Any fisher on the south coast knows that driving on beaches – often below the high tide mark – is a necessity for accessing many of the most valued fishing locations. And at many times these areas are already inaccessible due to the environment on the South Coast – be it soft sand, deep wash-outs or build-up of seaweed.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The potential implications of the marine park zoning on beach driving are concerning, particularly in combination with the frequency of track closures in the multitude of national parks along this stretch of coastline.

“Marine parks are supposed to be there for the benefit of all park users. These kinds of restrictions prevent fishers, a huge user group, as well as general beach-goers and campers from enjoying parks and all the mental, physical and well-being benefits fishing and being in these spectacular environments bring. This defeats the park’s purpose in the first place.”

 

Tightening the leash

For many residents and holidaymakers, part of the appeal of the south coast is to relax on a picturesque, secluded beach with your family and pets, while wetting a line.

Responsible dog owners who frequent this stretch of coastline will already be painfully aware of the wide-ranging restrictions on where you can take your dog, with numerous large national parks along the coast prohibiting pets.

We have heard feedback from many south coast fishers that most of their favourite fishing spots are dictated by these current restrictions, choosing to fish in locations where they can take their furry friends along for the experience.

Now with the proposed south coast marine park looming closer, a serious cloud of doubt hangs over the future of being able to take your dog to the beach or on your fishing trips anywhere between Bremer Bay and the WA/SA border.

DBCA has a very clear policy and history when it comes to allowing dogs in marine parks:  

  • According to DBCA’s website: “Your animal may travel in a boat in a marine park or reserve but must not enter or exit the boat within a marine park or reserve and must remain inside your vehicle if transiting through an adjoining national park”.
  • Under the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (‘CALM Act’), a person may not bring an animal onto lands or waters managed under the CALM Act, which includes national parks and marine parks.
  • Out of 200 DBCA-run marine parks, nature reserves, regional parks and national parks just 35 allow pets – and usually restricted to on-leash and only within small, designated areas. Dogs are not allowed in any marine park other than on boats.

The proposed marine park will span more than 1,000 km of coastline, from east of Bremer Bay to the WA/SA border and will likely include all beaches and coastal areas up to the high-water mark, save for a small radius around Esperance townsite covered by Port waters.

This means that many of your favourite fishing spots, assuming they are not locked away in a sanctuary zone in the new park, could be off-limits for your dog.

Andrew said, “For many on the south coast, the prospect of going fishing or going to the beach and leaving your dogs at home is absurd.

“Again, DBCA needs to be made aware imposing restrictions on a large section of the south coast community in this way will simply not be acceptable.”

“This will make it even more critical for south coast fishers to make clear what is important to you, when details of the proposed marine park are released for public comment in the next couple of months.”

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