Recfishwest says that some of the proposed no-fishing zones in the Government’s South Coast Marine Park plans released today are “completely illogical and unjustifiable”.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “Proposing no fishing zones in front of caravan parks, boat ramps and along several popular beaches demonstrates marine park planners in Perth are out of touch with the south coast community.
In December, the Environment Minister Reece Whitby is on record saying that the Government “had listened to recreational fishers” and that fishers would “be impressed by what they see at the other end.”
“We confirm that we are not impressed by what we see in these proposals,” said Dr Rowland, “The views of local fishers have clearly been ignored and it’s now time the Government genuinely starts listening.
“We ask the Government to seriously re-think several zones and join us at the table to deliver a truly positive outcome for fishers, the environment and our future.”
“These plans are now open for public comment until 16 June and Recfishwest encourages all fishers with an interest in this coast to study the details and engage in the consultation process.”
Every one of our 10 SunSmart Fishing Clinics Southern Tour was completely booked out this year, highlighting once again how popular and important fishing is on our south coast.
More than 350 excited kids took part in the clinics running from East of Esperance all the way along the coast to Augusta – with all participants enjoying learning about fishing basics, looking after the environment and being SunSmart.
This was a record attendance for the tour with record numbers of fish caught and released by the young eager anglers to match!
Check out some of the fishing action below in GWN7’s recent news item on the clinics.
Scores of whiting, flounder, skippy, tarwhine, black bream, leatherjacket and flathead catches put brimming smiles on the dials of our next generation of anglers over 11 days in January, with many participants enjoying the thrill of catching and releasing their first ever fish.
Many parents were delighted to be able to get their kids off their devices and out in the fresh air enjoying the healthy and educational experience the clinics provided.
Despite some windy, overcast and rainy conditions along the south coast, all fishing clinics at Duke of Orleans Caravan Park, Esperance, Hopetoun, Bremer Bay, Albany, Denmark, Walpole and Augusta were fully booked out, with some clinics even resulting in kids happily sharing rods with extra participants keen to get casting.
With fishing access to some of these cherished fishing spots along the south coast in question pending the release of the Government’s south coast marine park plans, these fishing clinics firmly showed that the social, physical and wellbeing benefits fishing provides to so many fishers need to be protected.
“This was by far Recfishwest’s most jam-packed and successful Southern Tour since it kicked off more than 20 years ago,” said Recfishwest’s Communications Coordinator Jarrad Lawford. “The response from the community has been a fantastic illustration of just how passionate they are here about fishing and how important it is in this part of the world.
“Recfishwest’s Sam Bock and I were kept very busy baiting lines, helping carefully unhook the catches and taking snaps of ecstatic kids with their fish. Many of them created memories of their first ever catch that will last a lifetime and we’re hoping they’ve now learned enough to safely enjoy fishing as a pastime that will give them a lot of joy for the rest of their lives.
“A big thanks to Healthway for supporting these great community events and cheers to our instructors Stephen Crane and Kevin Murphy who also did a fantastic job coordinating some of the clinics. Make sure you get in quick and register your spot in 2025 for when our Southern Tour returns next year.”
In addition to all the valuable fishing knowledge provided at these clinics, all kids were taught how to stay safe while fishing and were rewarded Recfishwest stickers and lures, along with dozens of SunSmart and Shimano hats for their next fishing adventure.
Were you one of the 350 young guns getting amongst the fishing action during our recent SunSmart Southern Tour? Check out some of the great snaps below!
The Minister for the Environment Reece Whitby has pushed back the date for the release of the proposed south coast marine park plan for public consultation to early February next year.
It was widely anticipated that the plans would be released before the end of 2023, but Minister Whitby, speaking on ABC Regional Drive, announced the decision to delay the release until next year.
He said, “I understand that people go away on holidays and have other issues on their mind and want to get away and relax a bit. So, I think an appropriate time would be in the New Year after the school holidays. I think early February is about the right time.”
The Minister was responding to questions around the consultation process to date that has caused widespread concerns within the south coast community that there is a pre-determined outcome for the marine park design.
Minister Whitby said, “What people will see in the new year is a more refined approach – we have listened…there’s been a lot of concessions and I think people will be impressed what they see at the other end.”
He added, “I’ve worked very closely with the Fisheries Minister Don Punch to get the absolute best outcome for all involved – we’ve made significant ground into satisfying the request of the fishing industry and recreational fishers.”
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “While it is encouraging to hear Minister Whitby say that the Government is listening to south coast fishers and taking on board our concerns, we will reserve judgment until we see the plans that go out for public consultation in the New Year.
“We have been here before with previous marine park proposals where we’ve been told our input has been taken on board only to see extensive no fishing zones without any justification to be included in plans for consultation and crucially into the final marine park designs.
“One thing is clear, we will need to make sure our collective voice as fishers is heard when the time comes to get a balanced marine park that can protect the environment without robbing hard-working south coast people of their favourite fishing spots.
“I encourage all fishers to join our cast of thousands as Recfishwest member and continue to keep up to date with developments through our channels.”
If you want a perfect example of why land-based fishing access and experiences need to be protected on the south coast – then the recent Esperance Land Based Fishing Club‘s Open Classic competition rang the bell loud and clear.
With 130 avid fishers competing, their hopes of snagging some impressive competition prizes rested on their cherished land-based fishing spots producing the goods for solid catches of fish species that thrive along the south coast – and it was another cracking year.
The club offered fantastic cash rewards for the heaviest fish across 13 species, meaning all competitors had equal opportunities to bring the heaviest fish to the weigh-in and leave with heavier wallets.
With junior and senior divisions for each species, there was a great opportunity for fishers both experienced and emerging to wet a line along the pristine southern coastline to land the biggest catches of mulloway, salmon, gummy shark, tailor, skippy, herring, whiting and squid – just to name a few.
It wasn’t just prizes for the heaviest catches up for grabs – the club also had a best photo competition with the judging criteria based on showing off the beautiful Esperance coastline and the spectacular fish that flourishes along it, with Billy Vibart’s youngster Frankie taking out the honours with the cracking salmon/sunset combo pictured below!
Given many of the local community’s favourite fishing spots both on the shore and out on the ocean are in areas where the Government has flagged sanctuary zones in the proposed south coast marine park, Recfishwest also attended the event to ensure attendees understand what is at stake and encouraged them to comment on the plans once they are released.
Recfishwest’s Sam Bock – an Esperance local who spent his childhood fishing on the south coast – ventured down to enjoy the great fishing on offer and spoke directly to the bustling crowd to reiterate the importance of having their say when the marine park plans stretching over 1,000km between east of Bremer Bay and the South Australian border are released.
“It is very likely contestants were fishing in areas that could soon be sanctuary zones, meaning they would be locked out of wetting a line in that area,” said Sam. “That’s why it’s crucial we receive feedback from locals that live and breathe the unique coastal and fishing lifestyle down here and for them to speak out on what areas are important to them.”
“We’ve seen from other marine park processes that feedback gathered during the public consultation period can make a significant difference in final plans. The more people that have their say, the better the odds that their fishing access is retained, which would provide a better outcome for locals and safeguard the great fishing experiences generated by southern competitions like the Esperance Classic.”
We have written to the Premier and had discussions with Minister’s Whitby and Punch intending to get the consultation process back on track after locals expressed their deep concerns that their favourite freedoms such as four-wheel-driving on the beach and taking their dogs to their prized fishing spots could be quashed given the DBCA’s reputation in park management.
To read our concerns on the proposed south coast marine park and for a rundown on the DBCA’s track record on park management, click here.
President of Esperance Land Based Fishing Club, Mitch Waideman, said the 130 competitors this year was the biggest seen in the Classic’s history and that comes down to the current great access and options to choose from for fishing spots along the south coast.
“We had a lot of people from all over the south coast and Kalgoorlie come down because they have so many spots to choose from and people can spread out and fish the beaches they want completely on their own. That’s why people are worried about this marine park – they don’t know what’s coming and how access will be affected,” said Mitch.
“We are crossing our fingers that our access to our favourite fishing spots is unaffected by this proposed marine park. Our ability to be able to go down and throw a line in the water is what we enjoy – we don’t want to be bottled up into little areas.”
The south coast’s great fishing experiences on full display
As seen each year during the Open Classic competition, the catches came thick and fast which saw hundreds of locals gather round for a gander during the final weigh-in.
Steven Howe caught the heaviest gummy shark and heaviest fish for the Classic, closely followed by Billy Vibart with his 12.3kg catch (pictured below).
The consistent West Aussie salmon action continued to show off its might on the south coast as well, with Lachlan Warren catching the heaviest of the hard-fighting species with a 4.465kg whopper, while Paul Jameson finished runner up with a 3.953kg salmon.
Congratulations to all winners of the Esperance Classic and make sure you keep checking our channels to keep up to speed with developments and information on how to make a submission to DBCA through its public consultation portal.
Dr Andrew Rowland, Recfishwest CEO, and Operations Officer Sam Bock were recently on the south coast listening to the concerns of local fishers about the potential impact of DBCA’s proposed marine park.
Stretching along 1,000 km of coastline from Bremer Bay to the WA/SA border, many local fishers told Andrew and Sam that the marine park already has a predefined political outcome and will be an unnecessary overreach coming out of Perth.
These concerns have been stoked by the bad publicity surrounding the consultation process to date.
While there, Andrew was also in the news on the front page of the Esperance Weekender and was on ABC Esperance, Goldfields, Mid-West and Wheatbelt calling for the consultation process to get back on track to enable a balanced outcome to be achieved.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction’s (DBCA’s) marine park on the south coast has been in the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons.
From shire council presidents, to leading members of the marine park’s Community Reference Committee (CRC), to community engagement officers, a growing chorus of voices have publicly criticised the direction the planning process has taken in the last few months (see some of their comments in the news and on social media below).
“There is mounting concern that our freedom to fish beaches and offshore areas prized by generations of south coast residents and visitors is on the line, “ said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “With our own experiences of it to date, we share the community’s concerns that the planning process for the marine park has gone sideways.”
Fishing community input appears ignored
As part of what was promised to be an open, transparent and genuine consultation process, Recfishwest was requested to provide a clear understanding of the fishing areas and experiences valued highly by recreational fishers.
Through a series of community meetings and survey feedback from hundreds of south coast fishers a data-driven picture of the places that matter most to fishers was generated by Recfishwest.
“We have provided this detailed feedback to DBCA, yet this input appears to have been completely ignored,” said Andrew. “In the interests of an informed and transparent consultation process, it would be entirely reasonable to expect to see a comprehensive social economic impact assessment of a marine park on the region. Yet, despite claims made in Parliament that one has been undertaken, we have seen no evidence that this is the case.”
The need for balance
Fishing and camping along south coast beaches with friends, family and your dog is part and parcel of the south coast community’s cultural and social fabric. Recfishwest strongly advocates that these activities must be conserved in any marine park along with the marine environment that supports them.
“The establishment of a marine park along the south coast must be balanced and should not deprive local communities from accessing popular fishing locations and beaches and all the well-being, family, social and economic benefits they provide to the local community,” said Andrew.
If you care about the south coast marine environment and enjoy fishing between Bremer Bay and the SA/WA boarder, it is important to have your say on the proposals once they are released for public comment. We’ll be keeping our community up to date on future developments.
Local resident and Community Reference Committee member Dr Kristen Perks, a respected marine biologist, took to social media to give her view on the planning process to date.
Dr Perks says DBCA ignored the input of DPIRD, their joint planning partner, in draft plans for the park put forward to the CRC for comment.
Dr Perks said, “It is unfortunate and disappointing DPIRD’s recommendations were not taken into account by DBCA. In my view DPIRD’s draft zoning recommendations had recognised and respected the socio-economic values of our local community and provided a good balance between conservation, recreation and commercial fishers.
“I believe with a marine park boundary spanning 1,000km from Bremer Bay to the South Australian border, SURELY, we can come up with a good compromise to enable marine sustainability whilst delivering the least impact on industry and the community’s ability to enjoy our local waters.
“I am prepared (and hopefully everyone is as well) to get on my soapbox to ensure we get balance for all parties and create a Marine Park we can all be proud of.”
South coast fishing stalwart and popular YouTuber Gideon Mettam – usually a moderate voice on fishing matters – has also fired up on his channels about the way he fears things might be going.
“Usually, I want nothing to do with all this political stuff, but this is too much. You all ought to have an idea of what’s going on ahead of time, so you’re ready to tell them where to shove their unnecessary sanctuary zones that will prevent us from enjoying the already pristine south coast.”
Petition gaining traction
A petition, organised by Esperance local recreational fisher Neil Pechar, has already amassed more than 2,800 signatures at the time of writing.
“We feel if we don’t speak up the Government will just run with it and we will lose a lot of our fishing areas and lifestyle which is pretty important for us in Esperance,” Neil told the ABC.
The Esperance Weekender recently reported the contract of the Esperance-based DBCA community engagement officer, hired to liaise with and help inform the community, was not renewed moving into the critical community consultation phase of the planning process.
“I feel disappointed and sorry that the broader community voice may not be heard as effectively as it should be going forward,” said the engagement officer. “There was every expectation that my role was for the entirety of the marine park planning process as clearly articulated in the Community Engagement Strategy endorsed by the former Minister.”
If you want an example of how important fishing is to the south coast – look no further than Esperance and last weekend’s (March 10-12) sensational Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club’s (EDSAC) Esperance Archipelago Offshore Angling Classic.
With Samson fish tipping the scales at more than 22kg along with spectacular harlequin fish, snapper and breaksea cod — it’s no wonder more than 600 people came down to the weigh-in at Esperance’s biggest fishing comp and enjoyed a fantastic weekend of fishing and socialising!
There were 275 competing anglers on 83 boats taking part in the competition – making it one of the biggest boat fishing tournaments if not the biggest in WA.
The 30th edition of this great fishing competition proved not just to be one of the biggest community events of the year in Esperance, but also drew anglers from throughout the Great Southern and Goldfields regions.
It’s also something of a local spectacle as with competitors’ friends and family members turning out to watch the traditional competition boat ‘fleet’ running out of Esperance Bay.
The mixed bag of fish species off the south coast combined with impressive prizes for the biggest catches meant there was plenty of excitement on who would take out each prize category.
Tyson Tate’s 22.40kg Samson fish not only landed him more than $20,000 in total for the heaviest fish caught and largest Samson fish overall — but his name was also pulled out of a hat containing hundreds of other raffle contestants to win a Garmin sounder package worth more than $5,000!
See the full set of results from the Classic below.
The Esperance Classic came on the back of another firm fixture in the south coast fishing calendar — Southerners Sport Club Fishing Classic held in Hopetoun, which was celebrating its 29th edition earlier this month, with dozens of contestants landing various species to take home spectacular prizes.
The two tournaments once again highlighted how highly prized the fishing on offer on the south coast is by the people who live there and those who travel there to sample what’s on offer, with EDSAC President Corrina Worth perfectly summarising why these fishing experiences need to be safeguarded.
“We are just very privileged to be able to access some beautiful places and catch some great fish along the south coast with minimal effort. Looking after that opportunity and protecting it for future generations is very important,” said Corrina.
Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett, who was in Esperance for the comp and to talk to fishers about the Government’s proposed south coast marine park, said it was the biggest crowd he’s ever seen attending the event.
“You can’t fail to see what fishing means to this community and people in this part of the world when you attend an event like this – it’s fantastic to see how the comp brings the community together and generates such a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere.
“And that’s for anglers across the board of all ages and capabilities – that’s the power of fishing and it’s why fishing events and experiences like these must be able to continue – they’re central to the fabric of community life and regional West Aussies’ well-being.
“This is backed up by the recently published results of the National Recfishing Survey that shows fishing is highly important for improved wellbeing along with injections into our regional economies.
“These massive benefits from fishing must be dialed into marine park planning processes currently underway along the south coast because one of the purposes of parks is to maximise the benefits to the WA community from these special environments.
“Well done to all fishers who took part and made this year’s event another ripper edition of the Offshore Angling Classic and, of course, congratulations to EDSAC President Corrina Worth and her team for their hard work in hosting another cherished calendar fixture for the Esperance community.”
With fishers now preparing for the 2023 GAMEX at Exmouth which kicks off from 17-25 March, the Pilbara region in WA’s north is also set to be injected with plenty of excitement and economic contributions from visitors. Stay tuned for our full GAMEX recap!
30th Esperance Archipelago Offshore Angling Classic – the full set of results
BREAKSEA 1st Boat 79 Shane Temple 2.822kg – 2nd Boat 99 Ryan Nelson 2.591kg