I have been shocked, dumbfounded and, frankly, downright scared at the vitriol Iâ€™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 whoâ€™s running for public office and who is an ardent supporter of participatory democracy, itâ€™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 itâ€™s really just been about finding time to follow up.
For those querying my delayed response, no I actually havenâ€™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 .
Iâ€™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 â€“ no can do! Iâ€™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 â€“ given I fish and I vote Greens â€“ 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 thereâ€™s a diversity of opinion in this area. And I acknowledge itâ€™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 donâ€™t know why people wish to perpetuate this myth. To me itâ€™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 â€˜no takeâ€™ 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% â€˜no takeâ€™ areas per bioregion by 2012. To me 100% equals a complete fishing ban, not 30%.
Given weâ€™re a country thatâ€™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 â€“ quite frankly â€“ 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.
Iâ€™m a sucker for seafood. I just canâ€™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 Societyâ€™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 Australiaâ€™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 Australiaâ€™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 â€˜In the future i wish to teach my kids to fish i hope you give me a chance to do that!!!!!!!!â€™ While I am unable to publish this readerâ€™s full comment due to a professional code of conduct I hold dear to my heart, I share this gentlemanâ€™s concerns. Sir, these policies The Greens present for consideration are, in fact, about ensuring exactly that â€“ 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 â€˜Recreational fishersâ€™ 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.â€™
To me, this report highlights some vital information â€“ 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 â€“ put a halt on the insults and abuse please.