Response to questions re marine parks

I have been shocked, dumbfounded and, frankly, downright scared at the vitriol I’ve received from some members of the fishing community in response to The Greens policy on marine parks. Oddly, some posts I am unable to publish as they are racist or perverse in content. Some are designed to intimidate and some even challenge my own personal safety.

That said, as someone who’s running for public office and who is an ardent supporter of participatory democracy, it’s really important for me to respond to those fellow Australians from the fishing community who are asking me genuine questions about the rationale behind this policy.

I apologise for having taken so long to respond. I felt that those who asked considered questions deserve the respect of me offering considered response in return, so it’s really just been about finding time to follow up.

For those querying my delayed response, no I actually haven’t consulted with my fellow Greens Party in regards to this matter. They are busy attending to and responding to a range of similarly important and pressing conservation and social justice issues such as working with farmers on the Darling Downs to Call for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining , an announcement on Quality, Affordable, Accessible Childcare and the Plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef .

I’m quite comfortable taking charge of responding to these queries myself and I thank those in the community who have assisted me in my research. If people expect me to be able to respond to scientific questions off the cuff, sorry – no can do! I’m a lay person when it comes to science and my role is similar to other lay people like me; my role is to seek to better understand and discuss this issue in a spirit of supporting the benefits of being part of an open dialogue.

Given the fishing lobby (and I refer to it as a lobby because many of us who fish are not involved in this lobby) has been bombarding me with phone calls, text message, emails and blog comments, it was important for me – given I fish and I vote Greens – to better understand the concerns of my fellow fish hunters. And given I fish and I vote Greens and I have friends and constituents who also fish and vote Greens (and wish to continue to do so), I am in a position to realise there’s a diversity of opinion in this area. And I acknowledge it’s an emotive topic.

While I cannot provide what some people are looking for (e.g. scientific evidence that covers every patch of ocean in Queensland), I can say that it is globally recognised that there needs to be areas of our oceans that remain untouched and that the marine reserves that exist around the world have shown to have increased diversity.

It is a myth that The Greens want to ban fishing. I don’t know why people wish to perpetuate this myth. To me it’s sensational and counter-productive given that many fishers express a genuine concern for and interest in marine conservation. An online fishing group is currently publishing a map of proposed ‘no take’ zones featuring a disclaimer regarding its accuracy. Well the good news for fishers is that the map is, in fact, inaccurate. From what I can tell by looking at it, it looks like it might be a map that identifies areas for further assessment or areas of great biological importance. The reality is The Greens wish to ensure that the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas program has legislated targets of a minimum of 30% ‘no take’ areas per bioregion by 2012. To me 100% equals a complete fishing ban, not 30%.

Given we’re a country that’s built on the coastline and that, in turn, begs a lifestyle that involves enjoying all the pleasures that beach and ocean life can bring, I am proud to live so close to areas of such vital ecological importance. I love fishing, I love kayaking, I love sailing and I love snorkeling. I shamelessly thank the producers of Happy Feet for having a crack at bringing a simplistic message of marine conservation to the masses because – quite frankly – I think children and families of tomorrow should be able to enjoy the same joys that we experience today. Sure the Happy Feet message is a bit contrived and simplistic, but it makes some attempt to spread the word that marine conservation is important for us to consider. Like the national parks and the flora and fauna we hold dear, we cannot continue to have a free reign on our ocean life.

I’m a sucker for seafood. I just can’t give it up. However, I am aware that we are over-fishing our oceans so what I do is choose to do is follow the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.

I also agree with those readers who have suggested that there other ways we can conserve and protect our waterways and oceans and support the species that exist within those important ecosystems. I suppose that is why I underwent training as a Seagrass Research Volunteer. Funds for marine research are extremely limited. That is why a cooperative national approach to coastal management is required to deliver clean and healthy environments, integrated ecosystems and sustainable coastal communities and that the health of Australia’s estuarine, coastal and marine environment is dependent on land management that recognises the interconnectedness of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. If elected I would work to eliminate harmful and toxic waste dumping into Australian waters.

Given that over 1 million Australians voted Greens at the last election, I am confident and proud of the policy position I am supporting and this is what I present to the electorate of Moreton. I proudly support the Greens platform that the health of Australia’s fishing industries is dependent on adequate conservation and sustainable management measures that ensure the replenishment of fishing stocks. Our goal is to have statutory ecosystems-based regional marine planning that enables the full range of uses and impacts to be identified and managed, and allocates resources across and within marine industry sectors. The Greens also want protection of the habitat of all marine mammals.

One reader wrote in saying ‘In the future i wish to teach my kids to fish i hope you give me a chance to do that!!!!!!!!’ While I am unable to publish this reader’s full comment due to a professional code of conduct I hold dear to my heart, I share this gentleman’s concerns. Sir, these policies The Greens present for consideration are, in fact, about ensuring exactly that – that children and families of tomorrow are able to enjoy the same joys that we experience today.

Finally, in my quest to understand fellow fishers a bit better, I found the following finding from a research paper called ‘Recreational fishers’ attitudes towards the 2004 rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (2009, Environmental Conservation 36 (3): 245-252) which states:

A survey of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park recreational fishers conducted three years after implementation of the new zoning plan revealed that 68% of fishers believed that, in general, rezoning the Marine Park was a good idea, whereas 57% supported the actual zoning plan that was implemented. A majority of fishers believed that rezoning the Marine Park as necessary, that the new zoning plan had high conservation value, and that the plan had little impact on their recreational fishing activities. However, most fishers had low to moderate satisfaction with the programme used to consult the public throughout the rezoning process.’

To me, this report highlights some vital information – that change is possible. It also highlights that the public, including recreational fishers, deserve consultation, open communication and respect in the process of discussions on rezoning.

Thanks for your time and your interest in asking the hard questions around marine conservation. I hope I have, to some extent, offered some food for thought. And please – put a halt on the insults and abuse please.

Kind regards,

Elissa.

8 thoughts on “Response to questions re marine parks

  1. Hi Elissa,
    I understand the theory of the greens but I believe that the main difference is there are people that fish recreationally & there are people like me that wait all week to go fishing all day. Last fishing trip I was out in the boat for 13 hours, the trip ranged from inside lake macquarie to 60km outside at the shelf, back 20km south of Norah Head, across to the 100m contour then home. We caught four fish in this session & release all but one, it cost me $110 if fuel, $40 in lures + other fishing line & tackel. I love fishing, I target specif fish, I release fish to big or to small & quite often catch nothing.
    I expect that your views on being green & what is enjoyable fishing are at polar opposites to mine, I believe that the Fisheries (as it was) was the best thing we had for an independent authority. When Peter Garrett takes opportunities to involve representitives of green groups & not representitaves of anyone dependent or passionate about fishing it makes me feel like the Greens believe what is important to them is more important than anything anyone else thinks is important.
    I love fishing & being out in nature, I know that there are vast areas of the ocean that I cant catch fish in & there are my secret spots I have narrowed down after countles trips at differnt times of year, differnt tides, different approaches etc that will produce fish, for someone to leave the vast areas open & close off my secret spots seems unfair.
    The method for estblishing a sancturary zone needs to start with the very reason of why that zone should go in that area not “we need 30% lets start with 60% & wittle our way back to 30% wherever we can because we cant do nothing & let the ocean slip into disrepair.”

  2. The green zones that were implemented in the barrier reef have their good points and bad, but they were done in small zones spread apart and didn’t incompass a whole area and left room for amateur fishing,commercial fishing,charter fishing and local tackle,fish and boat shops to stay in business,the new zones proposed take 100% of fishing areas out of everybodies hands and these areas comprise of a multitude of diferent businesses that are going to suffer without any compensation and are going to desimate families,lives and peoples way of life at present some are talking suicide as a way out.
    This cannot be allowed to happen just because a certain party want to win an election, if based on correct science no one would disagree but it is all political as it happenes every election we lose more area’s and will happen again in the next state election soon.
    There is a department of primary industries and fisheries who job it is to oversee the fishery which in aus. is the strictest in the world and from their research the fishery is sustainable and if it isn’t they protect species all together or restrict heavilly, these closures if based on science from fisheries management would not happen so if the scientists who know the fishery better than anybody are saying its in good shape then closures can’t be justified at the sake of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

    Regards Randall

  3. Sorry Elissa, your response doesn’t cut it.

    ( quote… I found the following finding from a research paper called ‘Recreational fishers’ attitudes unquote ) …. ” a research paper ???? This is typical of emotion charged, anti fishing rethoric poured into the media by AMCS, ACC, PEW, WWF etc…

    ( quote …..The reality is The Greens wish to ensure that the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas program has legislated targets of a minimum of 30% ‘no take’ areas per bio region by 2012. ……unquote )…. Don’t you see it ? A MINIMUM… the wording of these policies is so important.. !!

    You also say it is globally recognised…. etc etc…. Globally ? who is globally and for that matter, how about you look at what other countries have done to THEIR fishery and then take a look at the REAL figures from OUR waters. Commercial take from most other fisheries is 6000kgs per sq kilometer, Australia is 9kgs per sq kilometer… sounds sustainable to me ??? !!

    I respect that you have attempted to respond with as much fact as possible but in doing so only confirmed what most of the recreational anglers already know and that is political aspirants are spoon fed from the machine they are a part of.

    Be aware Elissa, that the Green Party started out as a small group of people with a passion and belief and it took many years to grow into what it is today……. recreational anglers of Australia are passionate !

    If you wish to know the truth or find the facts, I would sit down with you over a cuppa anytime to help.

    Regards

  4. Hi Elissa,
    We have been asking for the scientific evidence that the green zones, that have already been implemented, were based on for years. The fact of the matter is that there was no evidence, it was purely a political move. I have no problem with green zones if they are backed by scientific rational, not if they are rubber stamped areas.

    Is there any evidence to support that claim that the implementation of green zones results in an increase the fish populations outside?
    Every paper I have seen refers to increases in fish populations inside the green zones, but none show any substantial increase in populations outside.

    This is another point that I don’t think has been taken into consideration, I will try and explain it by an example:

    If there was an area that was fished by 1000 boats, in this area there is 100 fishing spots, you have 10 boats/site, but now we protect the fish by closing 50% on the area. Unfortunately we now have only 50 fishing spots for the same 1000 boats, and have 20 boats/site. With a doubling of fishing effort are we still providing a sustainable fishery? For the green zones to be effective, the fish populations inside need to contribute to the recruitment of outside populations in proportion to the increased fishing effort. There is no evidence to support this.

    In response to the stats from the paper “Recreational fishers’ attitudes towards the 2004 rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park”, I wonder what you make of this quote from the same paper “of those fishers who did not believe that rezoning the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was a ‘good idea’, 22% expressed ‘support’ for the zoning plan”? The data collected was flawed. I can guarantee the results would have been much different if they had done boat ramp surveys instead of phone surveys.

    Perhaps there should be some investigation into the impacts of the current green zones in Moreton Bay before we start closing more areas, perhaps the implementation of green zones should by supported by the scientific community, and not based on emotional political grounds.

    Until the green zones are developed with supporting scientific evidence, there is no way that I can support any decision that may lead to the implementation of further no take zones.

    Dave

  5. Elissa,

    How many people were surveyed for the GBRMP zoning plan? Were they actually from that area? The GBRMPA has now cost the Australian tax payer over $400m in compensation to businesses affected by these closures. It has had the criminal convictions for those so charge quashed. So how is that still good?

    GBRMPA you quoted in your other blog brings $5billion to Australia? How much do you think the recreational fishing industry is worth? A lot more than that! Imagine the impact your 30% goal will do to this country’s economy because fishing is a pull through to industries such as tourism and in some cases is the only lifeline to regional Australia!

    The ICUN is not a compulsory requirement for any Government to follow. Just because the worlds oceans are less than 1% protected, how much of Australia is currently?

  6. Hi Elissa,
    I would not disagree with Marine parks that were based on actual scientific fact rather than preserving their Grants and business intrests or hypocracy. Here I refer to the Scientists prostituting themselves for grants or dive companies trying to get rid out of good reef areas to increase their business. Or Val Taylor a most prolific Shark Killer now making money twice in her life time. The first time by killing Hundreds of GNS then Second By claiming fishermen have slaughtered the species. The second count of the GNS proved the numbers of GNS were significantly understated. The sad fact is that most of the marine parks are either based on punishing fishermen, the public or just for prestige. I am from Sydney and one of the main reasons the NPA has given for a marine park in the Sydney basin is so Sydney can be the first Major City to have a marine park, a world first. In some reports they have said the Sydney Marine Area is in crisis and in the same artical talking about the enormous diversity in the aquatic life in this area and the need to preserve this.
    As I stated at the start many of my fellow fishermen are not against marine parks based on proven science but are against the current scham science and the ramming of these parks down peoples throats without appropriate open and honest consultation with ALL stake holders. Many of my fellow fishermen believe the Greens will not act in their intrests. Many Fishermen have been betrayed in Marine Park negotiations and have lost many traditional fishing grounds to sanctuary zoning. Never has a sanctuary zone been placed in a marine wilderness they are usually in prime fishing areas. The 30% is troubleing as the fish aer not an evenly distibuted mass on the sea bed. It ma make more sence to judge all areas on their merits in some ares 30% may be too much protected area. I would have to ask how many Commercial and Recreational fishermen have the Greens discussed their poicy with and asked for their input. You may be interested to know there are over 400,000 Licenced (fee paying) fishermen in New South Wales alone. I am always amazed that every time I fish there is something different happening. I have seen dolphins, penguins,tall ships, Amazing sunrises, fierce storms, fed a Sea eagle I have even been eyeballed by a Whale. I would rather see sustainable recreational fishing encouraged in all waterways so many can see what I have. Not put off limits or families made feel guilty for fishing.
    Finally if you decide to print this could you please print this in full but without the spelling mistakes.
    Thanks
    Iain Mckay

  7. Hi folks,

    I appreciate your questions and, if elected to public office, will happily respond to those posed by my local constituents. In the meantime, this is the policy platform I come to my electorate with and I do so proudly and with conviction – in the same way some of you have expressed your views proudly and with conviction.

    I’m glad I’ve provided an online discussion forum for some people to express their views on this topic. The contribution of diverse groups to the political process is inherently valuable, so if elected to the seat of Moreton, I would ensure community participation in decision-making. More information on this at http://greens.org.au/policies/human-rights-democracy/community-participation-in-government

    Until then, you can keep up to date with The Greens work on marine parks and conservation that’s being conducted by the Queensland Greens Lead Senate Candidate Larissa Waters by visiting http://qld.greens.org.au and the Australian Greens by visiting http://greens.org.au.

    I am now going to focus my efforts on announcing my stance on internet filtering, asylum seekers and animal welfare.

    Kind regards,

    Elissa.

  8. Dear Readers,

    The view I hold is based on peer reviewed scientific articles that highlight a consensus position that marine parks improve fisheries production through improved recruitment and protection of breeding habitats.

    This list I post is to a list of 250 peer reviewed articles on the role that marine protected areas can play in conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fish stocks.

    I believe future generations of Australian should be able to enjoy eating fish and fishing. Creating more marine parks is vital to achieving this.

    http://www.mpa.nsw.gov.au/pdf/MPA-literature-listing.pdf

    To quote from the introductory paragraph

    “Over the last two decades, scientists from all over the world have evaluated the role that marine protected areas can play in conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fish stocks. The 250 peer reviewed manuscripts below represents a proportion of the total number of scientific studies carried out on marine protected areas and include studies published in the world’s leading scientific journals, such as
    Science and Nature. This immense scientific literature forms the basis of Australian, American and European Consensus statements signed by hundreds of marine scientists on the importance of marine protected areas as one tool to ensure long-term conservation of marine biodiversity. This literature also provided the scientific basis on which NSW Marine Parks were designed. Opinions of individuals either for
    or against marine protected areas should give consideration to this entire body of research. Heavy reliance on a single manuscript will undoubtedly lead to a biased interpretation of the evidence.”

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