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
One of the fishing community’s greatest challenges is maintaining access to high-quality fishing experiences across Western Australia.
Be it from industrial development, the deterioration and subsequent closing of jetties and platforms, or marine park zones that prohibit fishing, recreational fishers face a constant uphill battle in being able to access the experiences we all love and cherish.
In the case of marine parks, Recfishwest has been at the coalface this year as we advocate strongly for a fair and reasonable outcome for fishers in two marine parks currently going through the consultation process.
One of these parks – The Marmion Marine Park – is currently located between Trigg and Ocean Reef and has been in place since 1987. As part of a 2019 commitment, the State Government announced in February plans to extend the marine park further north from Trigg up to Two Rocks.
Another new marine park is also being proposed on the south coast, between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border.
In order to assist recfishers having their say, Recfishwest have directly engaged fishers along the south coast and metropolitan regions, as well as undertaking two online surveys, aimed at highlighting the most important areas for recreational fishing in both areas covered by the proposed parks.
Recfishers were surveyed on numerous questions such as asking them to highlight specific fishing spots they enjoy in these areas, how often they fish, the species they target and what was most important to their fishing experiences, such as accessibility, health benefits and safety.
Thanks to the great survey feedback provided from 761 fishers across both areas, Recfishwest has been advocating to decision-makers to ensure recfishing values are understood throughout the planning process.
We are continuing to meet with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and traditional owners to discuss what can be achieved in these marine parks when recfishing values are applied.
While marine parks are not a fisheries management tool, it is crucial that any zoning type that impacts on recreational fishing access must be justified by evidence, including how recreational fishing impacts upon the key values being protected.
Our surveys and meetings conducted in these areas underline the importance of recreational fishers being provided with an understanding around the process and rationale used to develop different zone types.
Extensive consultation processes are underway, in which Recfishwest is directly involved. Thanks to the feedback gathered below, Recfishwest will be in a stronger position to ensure recfishing values are well understood prior to draft marine park plans being released next year.
The release of these plans will provide further opportunity for fishers to put forward their point of view when it will again be important for the fishing community to have its collective say.
Marmion Marine Park Survey Findings
334 respondents identified 459 specific fishing areas important to them.
Combinations of fishing types were favoured by some, but the survey was dominated by solely dedicated shore or boat-based fishers.
Most important shore-based locations were aligned with access points, such as marinas and carparks.
Most important boat-based locations include Hillarys to Mindarie, capturing locations such as Three-Mile Reef and Staggie Reef.
South Coast Marine Park Survey Findings
427 responses from mostly shore-based fishers only (169), closely followed by shore-based and boat-based fishers (147).
110 respondents fished at least 20 days per year or more.
The majority of survey respondents fished between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid.
Eastern sections of proposed marine parks were fished less due to limited boat launching opportunities but were still rated incredibly important for wilderness fishing experiences.
Most important factors to fishers across both proposed areas
Easy accessibility to their favourite fishing spots, including boat ramps, four-wheel-drive tracks and launching sites.
Spending quality time with friends and family.
Being able to combine camping opportunities with fishing experiences.
The mental and physical health benefits that fishing provides.
Thanks to everyone involved with the fantastic feedback gathered above.
We will keep you updated on the planning processes for these marine parks and will ensure they are underpinned by peer-reviewed science and feedback from public consultation to improve recreational fishing experiences in these areas with no net loss of amenity.
If you fish between Trigg and Two Rocks in Perth’s north or between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border on our southern coast, Rercfishwest is strongly encouraing you to take our respective marine park surveys and get your voice heard in their planning processes.
The Marmion Marine Park is set to extend its northern boundary from its current base of Trigg to Burns Rocks up to Two Rocks.
Whether you fish from a boat or from the shore in this metro area, complete our online mapping survey – link below – to let us know where is important for your fishing in the proposed marine park extension.
Similarly, if you wet a line between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border, we recommend completing our south coast fishing online mapping survey – link below. This will help us ensure decision-makers understand how important fishing is to you along this stunning stretch of coastline.
Recfishwest Operations Lead, Matt Gillett said, “We understand why many fishers might have concerns over how these marine parks might impact their fishing, which is more reason to stand up and have your say in these surveys.
“The more you share your views and important fishing areas with us, the better we can advocate for getting the best result for you and the wider WA fishing community.”
As the State’s peak recreational fishing body, Recfishwest’s purpose is to ensure great fishing experiences for all in the WA community, forever.
Our commitment is to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community.
Recfishwest will advocate directly to decision-makers to ensure that recreational fishing values are understood throughout the planning process.
To find out more about a specific marine park planning process, check out the links below.