Australian Anglers Association, (WA Division) Inc.

Comments on Fifth Meeting of the Capes Advisory Committee and Proposed No Take Zones.

The Australian Anglers Association has prepared comments on the information provided by CALM on the meetings of the Cape to Cape Marine Reserve Advisory Committee planning the proposed Capes Marine Reserves, covering from Geographe Bay south east of Cape Naturaliste to east of Cape Leeuwin and the Cape to Cape areas in between.

The comments apply to the Fifth meeting of the Committee in February 2004 at which the Committee proposed no take zones and asked for comments from the public.

7 April 2004

Dr Jessica Meeuwig,
Department of Conservation and Land Management, Marine Branch
47 Henry Street,

Dear Jessica.

Comments on proposed no take zones in the Capes Marine Park.

The Association is concerned about the serious problems with the process used at the February meeting of the Capes Advisory Committee to decide these proposed no take zones.

Anyone who had observed that meeting would have to agree that the discussions showed the great deal of inconsistency and questionable approaches in the way many topics were handled. This resulted in a bias towards professional fishing interests, however due to the inconsistent approaches, even some professional fishing inputs were not treated on their merits.

Despite clear directions from the Marine Parks and Reserves Authority on the compensation question, the committee used input from the rock lobster and abalone industries to move the boundaries of no take zones proposed at the January meeting, to reduce or remove the compensation questions, yet ignored inputs from recreational fishing about the importance of some of the proposed areas.

There was no consensus or agreement by the committee on the details of many of these proposed no take zones. Some were decided by a narrow majority vote after long periods of discussion with the appearance of some committee members "giving in" to end the discussion. In particular the Association is concerned at the process of committee members being required to vote on proposed areas and boundaries before they had heard the opinions and discussions of the other committee members as they finally went around the table getting the votes.

The discussions were rarely focused on the objectives of the meeting and lacked any regular reviews of how the "big picture" was developing. The committee sometimes seemed to lose track of the amount of extra areas which had been added to no take zones, and ignored comments when people pointed out that some types of areas had already been added in response to some comments about the need for specific types of areas to be included in the reserves.

For these reasons the Association does not consider that these proposed no take areas are suitable starting points for the Capes Marine Park.

The committee agreed that public comments should be sought on the proposed boundaries of these no take zones.

The Association is concerned at the quality and quantity of the information that was made available to the public to help them in preparing their comments on the proposed no take areas. In particular we believe the general public was not adequately informed about the limited degree of support and agreement by the committee for each particular area, and the non environmental issues which had been used in choosing some areas or boundaries.

The descriptive document which accompanied the maps did not contain sufficient information about the reason for the choice of these particular areas. Much more information was contained in the draft minutes of the meeting, and although these draft minutes were provided to the sector reference groups, these minutes were not generally available to the public. The descriptive documents by themselves were barely sufficient for people who had been involved previously, and were completely inadequate for people on their first introduction to the issues involved in choosing no take zones in the Capes area and for preparing informed comments.

No Take Zones and Shore Based Fishing.

The justification for complete closure to fishing of shoreline areas seems to be based on experience elsewhere in different environments and with different species of fish. Jessica Meeuwig noted that researchers might have difficulty answering the questions of how removing pelagic species from some sandy beach shorelines does change the ecosystem (and believes that it does) if there are few such areas closed to such removal.

The Association believes the impact of catching the common pelagic species in the numbers taken from some of these areas due to shore based recreational fishing, is very small compared to the impact of the total number of fish of those species taken in the region.

This highlights the problem of disagreement on the impact of taking mobile, pelagic, non-resident fish from such areas. The Association contends that fish such as salmon, herring, tailor, mulloway, skipjack, snook, pike, odd shark, whiting etc, continually or seasonally move in and out of sandy bottomed areas such as Yallingup and there is absolutely NO environmental benefit in prohibiting fishing from the shore for such species in such areas in the numbers taken from some of these areas compared to the total number taken in the region.

Far larger impacts occurs from large scale extraction of these finfish species in the region or nearby areas or during their migration to or within the area, and proper fisheries management everywhere has greater potential for improvement in their abundance than banning line fishing for them in some limited areas.

The words in the Capes vision statement "....sustainable human endeavour...." applies to recreational line fishing from the shore in most of the places for the species most commonly caught.

The Association wishes to see some more real research on the species present in and transiting through these areas, not just using experience from other parts of the world on different species of very questionable relevance to our salmon, herring, tailor, mulloway, skipjack, snook, pike, odd shark, KG whiting etc. and our Western Australian situation and environment and the total amount of extraction and exploitation in the region.

The Association further asks that we be given a specific guarantee in the management plan that if (1) no research is done on this subject, or (2) if the research which is done can't address that issue, or (3) if the research shows there is not enough change in the ecosystem from removal of the few pelagics species to justify the ban on recreational line fishing from the shore, that all such areas will be reopened to line fishing from the shore in the next review. We submit that flexibility needs to be a two way process, and must include restrictions being removed or relaxed if they are later found not to be necessary or effective.

We believe that targeted seasonal closures with the specific purpose of handling any seasonal issues such as protecting fish spawning aggregations would receive significant public support from recreational anglers. These need to be supported by the data which shows they are necessary, and targeted seasonal closures will be much more acceptable than complete spatial closures.

We don't have any fundamental objection to closing a few specific areas to the taking of specific species of resident fish, eg blue groper, but the areas would have to be explained and justified, and the area should not be closed to all line fishing from the shore.

We ask that the Committee consider what objectives are realistic and socially acceptable for this area, and what activities REALLY need to be banned to achieve those objectives - and consider the other pressures on these areas which might have many times more impact than the activities being banned, and then get work done on properly managing those pressures.

Comments on the specific zones proposed as they affect recreational line fishing, which is the main focus of the Association's membership and Perth based fishing clubs, are:-

(1) Eastern Geographe Bay.

The Association does not see the benefit in closing this area to recreational line fishing for finfish from the shore or by wading, standing on rocks, reefs, etc. in a 200m strip from the shore line. See the general comments about recreational line fishing from the shore

(2) Busselton Jetty.

The Shire of Busselton has carried out public consultations and public meetings after giving notice to the local community, and has decided to support a 50 metre radius exclusion zone around the underwater observatory.

In support of the Capes committee's decision, some members were heard to say that the Busselton Shire's process was flawed because it was open to bias and "stacking" by recreational fishermen, and so no notice should be taken of that outcome

Yet without obtaining any significant measure of public opinion other than the few submissions received in response to their January proposals for a no take zone which we understand were equally divided, the Capes committee has ignored the Busselton Shire's measurement of the public's opinion, and has decided to propose taking the entire end of the jetty past the underwater observatory as a no take zone, and has included extra areas north beyond the end of the jetty and south of the underwater observatory.

This decision can only reinforce the public view that the Capes committee is out of touch with public opinion on the subject. That will reflect badly on the public's opinion and acceptance of all other no take areas proposed by this committee, particularly if the public were properly informed about the limited degree of support within the committee for some of the areas proposed.

The Association strongly supports the 50 metre radius outcome proposed by the Shire of Busselton, and strongly opposes the larger area proposed by the Capes committee. The Association's position as covered in its letter to the Busselton Shire dated 13 May 2003 has not changed and still represents its current opinion about this important sharing of a community owned and funded asset.

The end of the jetty is in disrepair. Any inspection of the end even by an untrained person leaves the impression that the decking of the jetty will not last more than a few years and could easily be badly damaged by the next storm. The CALM magazine Landscope notes that the corals around the jetty are only there because of the shading that the jetty decking provides.

The text for this proposal states that "people of various ages and mobility" can experience a sanctuary zone. The Association believes that such people will only be able to experience the sanctuary zone if they use the underwater observatory, and that experience will be no different if a 50 metre sanctuary zone is in place or a much larger sanctuary zone.

(3) Central Geographe Bay.

No comments.

(4) Elmore Street: Potential Special Purpose Zone - fish nursery

TThe Association supports special management in this area for the purposes of fish nursery. Due to the lack of details about the exact location, size of the area, and what restrictions might apply to recreational fishing, we are unable to comment further.

(5) Eagle Bay / Meelup.

The Association supports the boundaries which allow recreational fishing from the shore. For the same reasons as are given for proposing this area as a sanctuary zone, we believe the Meelup beach area is valuable for children and other recreational fishermen who cannot handle rough water and fishing from rocks, and we question the value of banning recreational line fishing from the the sandy shore as covered elsewhere.

(6) Cape Naturaliste.

The committee ignored an important safety issue in the need for small boats to seek protection from strong easterly winds by sheltering on the western side of the Cape, and still be able to fish in the area while waiting.

The area proposed to be closed to shore based fishing has special value to a few dedicated shore anglers who are prepared to make the considerable effort to get there. The area provides a unique experience to fish somewhere where a special effort is required. It goes beyond just catching fish for the sake of catching a fish. The area is seldom fished and large quantities of fish are not caught, so there is little impact on this area by shore based line fishermen.

(7) Yallingup.

Reef trampling especially by surfers has been identified as the major issue in this area. We ask what will the closing to fishing achieve?

The Yallingup proposed no take zone includes an area of sandy bottom at the northern end of the reef area which has no conservation value, but which is extremely important for recreational anglers when the ocean is rough or when winds are strong and they cannot fish the more exposed areas of the beach due to the swell which is present much of the time in the remaining areas of Yallingup beach. It also includes an area where anglers can sometimes stand on the reef and fish into the open water to the north of the reef during calm conditions and low swell.

The Association contends that fish such as salmon, herring, tailor, mulloway, skipjack, snook, pike, odd shark, whiting etc, move in and out of sandy bottomed areas such as these and there is absolutely NO environmental benefit in prohibiting fishing from the shore or reef top for such species in such areas, but there is a significant loss of social amenity through loss of access to areas of protected water in an otherwise high energy shoreline.

(8) Injidup.

As for Cape Naturaliste, this area has special value to a few dedicated shore based anglers who are prepared to make the considerable effort to get there. This is an area is one of the few spots that provides access to deep water from the shore. It can only be fished under very calm conditions. During storms the area is pounded by very big seas and the fish can be expected to disperse.

These sanctuary zone should not take the entire headland, and should leave at least 50 metres off shore from the first headland described in your text, around the northern most point until halfway to the southern boundary, and exclude the small bay at the southern end from the sanctuary zone.

(9) Cowaramup: Potential Special Purpose Zone (Recreational activity)

The Association supports the reservation of this area for recreational activities. The area has ready access, and is close to Gracetown. Recreational line fishing from the shore must be allowed from some of the beach and some of the rocks which are currently heavily used by recreational anglers.

Boat based recreational fishing must be allowed in a significant proportion of the Bay so that small boats can be used to fish in the Bay in safety without having to go out to sea.

(10) Kilcarnup: Potential Special Purpose Zone.

The Association accepts the need for management of activities in this area. Appropriate activities must include some provision for recreational fishing in this area. In the absence of any specific proposals or limitations we are unable to comment further.

(11) Gnarabup: Potential Special Purpose Zone (Recreational activity)

The Association supports the reservation of this area for recreational activities. The area has ready access, and is close to significant residential and holiday accommodation. Appropriate activities must include provision for recreational fishing in this area, and we cannot see any reasons for any significant restrictions on most recreational fishing activities under the provisions of the Marine Park. Any management of fishing activities should be carried out by the Department of Fisheries.

(12) Cape Freycinet.

The Association supports the proposed 200 metre offset in which recreational fishing will be allowed because of the importance of this area to shore based recreational fishermen and the nearby CALM camping areas.

(13) Hamelin Bay: Potential Special Purpose Zone (benthic protection and management of multiple use)

The Association accepts the need for management of activities in this area. Appropriate activities must include some provision for recreational fishing in this area. In the absence of any specific proposals or limitations we are unable to comment further.

(14) Hamelin Island.

No comments.

(15) Cosy Corner.

The Association strongly objects to the proposal for a no take zone at the headland at Cosy Corner. In particular we object to the way in which this area was proposed.

The committee changed the proposed no take zone from an area which had some acceptance by recreational fishermen because of input from professional abalone fishermen and the compensation question, and now proposes an area which is very important for recreational fishermen.

The headland is at the end of a significant access road and adjacent to the vehicle stopping area accessible by two wheel drive cars and used by many recreational anglers. This headland area has long been renowned for fishing for large fish from the shore and has areas which can be fished during strong winds, areas which are rare on this coastline.

We would accept a sanctuary zone within the proposed boundaries which allows recreational line fishing from the headland's rocks and the shore.

(16) Cape Leeuwin.

No comments.

(17) Flinders Island.

No comments.

(18) East Flinders Bay.

No comments.

Hardy Inlet.

The issue of resource sharing in the Blackwood River and Hardy inlet has yet to be decided. The Fisheries Department has only recently released the discussion paper "The Hardy Inlet Estuarine Fishery - Management Issues and Options" and that is still open for public submissions until 3 May.

Since these resource sharing issues could have a significant impact on the use of Hardy inlet for both recreational and professional fishing, no decisions should be made on no take zones until resource sharing issues are resolved.

(19) Deadwater / Swan Lakes.

The Deadwater is fished by tourists; it is also a gazzeted ski zone. It is getting smaller by the day as the river mouth moves further east. Swan Lake is an important area for the local recreational anglers, especially the people from East Augusta. At times it is 'the' place to get crabs. Many locals go there for whiting when they are running. It has many cobbler and some bream.

The area has poor access, can be accessed only at high tide without risk of stranding and waiting for the next tide. One suggestion is a 'no power boat-electric motors only' zone so people could still go and get crabs at least.

(20) Point Pedder / Central Hardy Inlet.

These flats proposed for the no take zones are integral to the catch and release angler. These are the places bream anglers and other light tackle catch and release sportfishers target for activities like fly fishing, etc. The committee should consider the negligible impact of catch and release fishing and consider where this should be allowed within sanctuary areas, or more appropriately, designate zones which allow catch and release fishing in place of no take zones.

Terry Fuller,
Secretary, Australian Anglers Association.

(This version contains minor spelling and grammar edits to the first version of 5 April.)

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This page last updated 7 April 2004.