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.”
Recfishwest understands plans for both the new South Coast Marine Park and the extension to Marmion Marine Park are to be released for public comment as early as October.
And it’s going to be crucial for the tens of thousands who fish along the north metro and south coasts to stand up and make their voices heard to protect access to some of the most valuable and popular fishing spots in these areas.
In recent months, we’ve highlighted the south coast community’s concerns around the consultation process going off the rails and the potential loss of some of the region’s fishing and beach access through a potentially heavily unbalanced marine park design.
Given what’s happened with the south coast marine park consultation process to date, Recfishwest also has concerns about how the extension to Marmion Marine Park will impact fishing access along the northern suburban coast.
Currently the Marmion Marine Park, originally established in 1987, covers the area from Trigg Point to Burns Beach.
However, a review of the management plan for the Marmion Marine Park was triggered in 2019 following 143 hectares of the marine park being excised to develop the Ocean Reef Marina, resulting in the destruction of 12 hectares of prime abalone habitat.
This resulted in proposals by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) to near-quadruple the area covered by the marine park, extending it to north of Two Rocks.
Defending our fishing freedom
While we will only see the proposed no fishing areas within the new marine park boundaries once the plans are released for public comment, another overreach by DBCA could see an extensive loss of fishing freedom within the extended marine park.
“Perth’s northern suburbs are the gateway to one of our great city’s playgrounds, where tens of thousands of fishers access the high-quality fishing experiences this stretch of coast has to offer both on and off the shore,” said Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell.
“Recreational fishers were among the first to support the creation of Marmion Marine Park more than 30 years ago, and any extension to this park must balance conservation with needs of the community. “These needs include those of the tens of thousands of mums, dads and kids who enjoy fishing in this area for abundant bread and butter species like squid, herring, whiting and rock lobster.
“We share the community’s concerns that what is planned could be another overreach heavily restricting fishing access in the park – given DBCA are proposing to replace every hectare of marine park lost as a result of the Ocean Reef development with 175 hectares of new marine park.
“That’s why we strongly urge all metro fishers to be ready to make your voices heard by providing feedback to DBCA when the time comes and contacting your local MP to tell them how important fishing is to you in this area.
“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.”
What you can do
Keep up to date through the Recfishwest website, social media platforms and e-newsletters
Have your say on the plans once released and how they will impact on your fishing through DBCA’s website
Contact your local MP to tell them what you think about the plans
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.”