New Commonwealth Marine Parks Announced

Recfishwest welcomed the latest Commonwealth Marine Reserves Management plans, released in March 2018, which  recognises the importance of fishing in WA.

Recfishwest CEO Dr. Andrew Rowland at Parliament House, Canberra, this week.

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell said these new evidence based management plans deliver a much more balanced approach than we have seen in the past and I am pleased the value of recreational fishing  has finally been acknowledged as a key value of Marine Parks.

“These plans are definitely a large improvement on the plans produced by the previous Government which locked fishers out of large areas of the ocean for no apparent reason.  The plans may not be perfect but they are the best I have seen throughout this whole process. ” Mr Campbell said.

“After years of uncertainty and long drawn-out discussions, today’s announcement is a much better outcome for fishing, a much better outcome for the community and a much better outcome for the environment.”

“These new plans maintain access to many of the iconic fishing locations around WA, including the Rottnest Trench and the South West’s Geographe Bay, both of which had previously earmarked important areas for closure. This means the descendants of West Aussies who have sustainably fished these places for generations can continue to have the same wonderful experiences. Some of the issues of most concern that we raised with the Commonwealth Government appear to have been taken on board.

“I urge everyone to support these new plans as they show a good balance between the needs of all reasonable stakeholders.”

Although these new plans appear to strike a good balance between the needs of all stakeholders the usual groups will no doubt be once again making outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about the level of protection provided by the plans even though these new plans provide the sea floor with 200,000 square kilometres more protection than the previous plans. These usual groups won’t be satisfied until all fishing is stopped or until the political party they identify with is the one to introduce management plans.

“I believe the management plans announced today are most comprehensive and sensible plans released to date and balance the needs of all reasonable stakeholders better than any of the previous plans.  We urge all sensible fishers and community members to support these plans.”

You can access the new plans here.

Recfishwest support marine parks that are created for the purpose of recreation, science, education, conservation and enhanced visitor experiences. We believe marine park zoning must be underpinned by science and should be implemented using simple, practical management that is risk-based, transparent and subject to regular review.

Background on Marine Parks

Developing Australia’s network of Marine Parks has been a very long and time consuming process. Recfishwest has been participating in this process from the beginning and has invested many years and submitted countless submission during this time.

In 1998 Australia committed to establishing a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (Marine Parks) and developed guideline for establishing these Parks.  In the 14 years that followed there was a procession of science which included Bioregional Profiles and plans, Regulation Impact Statements, social and economic assessments as well as scientific and expert reports.

In 2011 draft marine park proposals for the South-west, North, North-west, Coral Sea and Temperate East Marine Regions were released and in November 2012 a network of Marine Parks was proclaimed.  In many cases the proclaimed Marine Parks had very little resemblances to the 2011 proposals the public were asked to comment on.

In 2013 as part of an election commitment the Coalition government reproclaimed the Commonwealth marine reserves and set up an independent scientific review of the Marine Reserves. This review started in September 2014, undertook a significant amount of public consultation and was completed in December 2015.

Following the review, new and improved management plans were developed and these new plans were released by the Turnbull Government’s this week. You can access the new plans here.

To compare zoning and maps from the old plan to this latest plan click the links below.

North-West Commonwealth Marine Park Zoning comparison

South-West Commonwealth Marine Park Zoning comparison

Recfishwest’s Position Statement on Marine Parks 


State Marine Parks & What They Mean for Your Fishing

Love them or loathe them there are a number of state marine parks that are in the process of being implemented. These include the Ngari Capes Marine Park and six new marine parks in the Kimberley at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay, Horizontal Falls, Camden Sound, North Camden Sound and North Kimberley.

Before any changes to the fishing rules in these marine parks can take effect they need to be gazetted under the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 (CALM Act) and then complementary legislation has to be made under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994 (FRMA).

Consequently, there is a time lag between classification of marine park zones and restrictions on where you can fish taking effect.

Under the CALM Act, authorisations (fishing licences) issued under the FRMA prior to the classification of a marine park remain valid (and rights unaffected) at least until the authorisation expires or is due for renewal.

What this means for you is that once a marine park has been gazette under the CALM Act there will be no changes to the fishing rules within the park for 12 months.

This means that fishing prohibitions will not be introduced under the FRMA until 12 months after the marine park zones are classified under the CALM Act.

This approach ensures that any fishing licences that were current at the time the marine park zones were gazetted can be used to their full extent.

Once a marine park has been gazetted under the CALM Act, fishers will be able to renew their licences and continue fishing throughout the marine park in accordance with their authorisation until the 12 month transition period ends. At the end of the 12 month transition period, fishing licences will remain valid but fishers must then comply with the new marine park fishing rules.

Read Recfishwest’s Position Statement on Marine Parks here.

Commonwealth Marine Park Review – Delivers a Mixed Bag for Fishers

Recfishwest support marine parks that are created for the purpose of recreation, science, education, conservation and enhanced visitor experiences. We believe marine park zoning must be underpinned by science and should be implemented using simple, practical management that is risk-based, transparent and subject to regular review.
Recfishwest believes that recreational fishing is largely compatible with the conservation objectives of marine parks and that it is an activity that must be recognised as a key value when formulating management plans.

This latest report following an independent review of the planned Commonwealth Marine Park Network marks 18 years since Australia made the initial commitment to develop a Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network (CMRN). Recfishwest have represented recreational fishing interests throughout the whole process and have invested a significant amount of time and effort to ensure the values of recreational fishers have been represented at every opportunity.

As part of this latest review Recfishwest met with the independent review Bioregional Advisory Panels and provided a submission identifying several significant areas of contention for the recreational fishing community.  Recfishwest believe that unless recreational fishing poses an identified risk to the conservation objectives of a marine reserve there is no logical rationale for excluding fishers from any area. Restrictions on recreational fishing should be avoided where possible and marine park management should aim to improve recreational fishing experiences with no net loss of amenity.

The outcomes of the latest review are a mixed bag. There are some very important wins for recreational fishing while other areas that we believe needed to be changed have remained untouched.Some of the most pleasing recommendations from the review include changes which will increase fishing access in important areas in Perth, Dampier and the Kimberley.

Perth Canyon:

Zoning before the review:

Independent Review zoning recommendations


The review recognised the Rottnest Trench as important game fishing and charter fishing area and Recfishwest is glad to see recommended zoning changes that would ensure access is maintained to this important game fishing location.


Zoning before the review:

Independent Review zoning recommendations

The review appeared to have listened to our concerns and have recommended the sanctuary zone be moved east where its impact on recreational fishing will be reduced and be replaced with a Benthic Protection Zone which will not significantly impact on fishing activities North of Legendre Island.


Zoning before the review:

Recfishwest argued against the placement of the southern most sanctuary zone within this reserve as recreational fishing is common within 30nm of the coastline from Cape Leveque to Broome and within 90nm of Broome itself. Fishing in this area is likely to increase in popularity with the recent announcement of the sealing of the access road to Cape Leveque.

Some issues Recfishwest raised with the Independent Review Panel were not solved to Recfishwest’s satisfaction and represents a missed opportunity to minimise impacts on the fishing community while a number of other marine parks remain unchanged. The Independent Review has also recommended zoning changes for areas around Two Rocks, Geographe Bay, the South-west Capes region and Bremer Bay.

Two Rocks

Zoning before the review

Independent Review zoning recommendations

The review report has recommended the size of the sanctuary zone in this reserve be increased for the benefit of a few,  further restricting access to this popular fishing location on the door step of the metropolitan area.

Geographe Bay

Zoning before review

Independent Review zoning recommendations

The review has recommended straightening the boundary of the sanctuary zone to better align with state based marine parks however the rationale for maintaining two no fishing areas that contain similar habitat has not been justified.

The Capes Region

Zoning before the review

Independent Review zoning recommendations

In failing to recommend an alignment of the State and Commonwealth sanctuary zone in the Capes region the review has missed an opportunity to simplify management arrangements.

Bremer Bay

Zoning before the review

Independent Review zoning recommendations

This reserve is located in-between two popular tourist towns that both rely on recreational fishing tourism.  The review has recommended increasing the no fishing area within this reserve by 64%.

Recfishwest recognise some effort has been made to reduce the impact on recreational fishing by slightly increasing access to some of the important inshore areas that are regularly accessed by recreational fishers.

Recfishwest will be making a submission on this latest report and are hopeful that this long drawn out process will finally be able to move forward in the near future.