Australian Anglers Association, (WA Division) Inc.
Fisheries Management Perth Metro Area.
A discussion paper titled "Zone 5" has been prepared by two keen and experienced recreational anglers Wally Parkin and Garry Lilley. A copy was received by the Association on 15 August, and was discussed at the AAA Delegates' meeting on 16 August. See below for the link to the paper. A better title might be "Fisheries Management Perth Metro Area."
It is extremely important to look at the background to this paper and the reason for its preparation, and not just look at some of the details in isolation. This extra background has been written up for AAA people - and any other recreational anglers - even though not all of this had been discussed at the meeting.
Fisheries management is based on a large region, which for the West Coast region goes from north of Kalbarri to east of Augusta. What might be OK to manage the total fishing in the entire region might mean that areas near large human populations are allowed to be over fished.
Fishing in the metro area has changed a lot over the past 20 to 30 years, and not for the better. Fish are harder to find and people have to travel much further to find them.
What is "sustainable"?
Fish populations and the quality of fishing in areas around population centres and areas of heavy use will be changed, compared to what they would have been like if humans didn't exist. Some of that change is inevitable due to our human activities.
If people can come back in 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 years and find the situation is not significantly changed compared to the present, than whatever is being done is sustainable, even if the fishing and fish stocks have been changed using the idea of "compared to what it would have been like if humans didn't exist".
The metro population has increased to something like 1.5 million people, and the fishing pressure is increasing with the increasing population.
Improved boats, GPS, echo sounders, fishing equipment, access to information, are all increasing the pressure on the fish.
What is likely if we continue as at present? What do we want?
People who remember what the fishing was like 20 to 30 years ago see the current situation and ask "what is likely and what do we want for the future?".
Draw a line between what the fishing quality was like 20 or 30 years ago and what it is now, then extend that line the same distance forward into the future.
Will we, in 20 or 30 years time or longer, and our children and grandchildren, still be able to go fishing in Perth metro waters and be able to catch enough fish of the type we could catch in the past for it to be a worthwhile pastime?
Of course there are fisheries management processes in place to try to alleviate this. But will the fishing continue to decline at the rate it has in the last 20 to 30 years?. Will it decline even faster as more and more people compete for fewer and fewer fish?. Think about that.
For many species it means that they will be very hard to catch, which means the fish will have been heavily depleted in the metro area, and that means the fishing pressure is unsustainable.
What do we want for the future?
Where will it end? Will future generations (and ourselves in 20 years time) thank us for what we have handed on to them? Or will they criticise us for not using some restraint so they could experience at least some of what we and earlier generations could?
Or will it be like blue groper which used to be common around Rottnest, and are now very rare. Do WE criticise those people of 30 or 40 years ago, some of whom took more than they needed, even allowing for "forgive them, because at the time they didn't know what they were doing"?
Will your grandson ask you "Grandad, what's a Dhufish?", or "what's a Mulloway?", just as today's metro fisherman ask "what's a Blue Groper?"
We can't use the excuse of "we don't know what we are doing," because it is plain for everyone to see that the fishing is changing.
Who is responsible?
Everyone has some impact. No one, commercial, recreational, or charter, who goes fishing can say "I'm not doing very much, so I don't have any impact." They cannot say "It's up to other people to change, not me."
A lot of people having "not very much impact" can add up to a lot of impact in total, and the individual bits might need to be just slightly smaller, so that the total is smaller.
Just a small number of "really big impacts" can have a lot of impact in total, and it's much more important that the people who are doing a lot change what they are doing.
No one who eats commercially caught local wild fish can say:- "Someone else caught this - I'm not responsible." The fish would not have been caught if the market demand wasn't there. Catches must be managed for sustainability. Everyone has some impact.
What has already been started?
What is already started or been changed which might stop or change the downward spiral? This is an enormous topic. Some include:-
1. West Coast Recreational fishing rules changes October 2003.
2. Commercial Wetline Fishing Review - in progress. Yes, it should have happened long ago.
3. Cockburn Sound and nearby Pink Snapper closure during the spawning period. Championed by concerned recreational anglers who are concerned for fish for the future. Announced 19 August.
4. Integrated Fisheries Management.
5. Government Election Policy promises and statements, including:-
Government understands that our fish resources and marine environments are coming under increasing pressure from human population growth, increased coastal urbanisation and advances in technology. In order for our fisheries to remain managed at sustainable levels increased investment in fisheries management, research, community education and compliance is required.
Government recognises that fish stocks are limited and marine environments can be damaged by unwise use. Growing populations are placing increasing pressure on fish stocks and the environment, highlighting the need for a new integrated approach to management that takes into account the requirements and aspirations of the commercial, charter, recreational, Indigenous and conservation sectors.
Ensure that ….. management of commercial and recreational fisheries in Western Australia continues to be based on a strong principle of sustainability or "Fish for the Future".
Continue to work with recreational fishers and the wider community to ensure that recreational fishing experiences can continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations of Western Australians.
Continue to work with local communities to identify and develop management plans for fish habitats in need of special protection.
Significantly enhance the State's capacity to undertake research into fish species of importance to the recreational sector, such as Western Australian dhufish, rock lobster, tailor, herring, snapper, blue groper, blue manna crabs, abalone and marron.
Ensure there are adequate funds to undertake recreational catch and effort research to support recreational fisheries management and Integrated Fisheries Management.
Continue to protect snapper breeding aggregations in Shark Bay and Cockburn Sound and prohibit commercial snapper fishing in Cockburn Sound.
Use the provisions of the Fisheries Adjustment Schemes Act to phase out commercial fishing in the Swan and Canning Rivers.
Are these enough?
Some people say no, these are only a start, and the situation needs more changes and needs them VERY soon. Some will take years to have enough effect on the fish and sustainability.
Will some amazing thing happen and will fishing get better than it is at present without more changes? Will it get better so that it goes back to what it was like 20 or 30 years ago? Not likely.
Are these opportunities to do the right thing - for the fish and for the fishing experience of future generations? Many people will say "Yes" if they think about it.
What is possible if we decide to do things differently?
That's where the Zone 5 paper comes in:-
1. To get support for the CONCEPT of the need for special management for the metro area.
2. To get people thinking and talking about what things need to change.
3. To get the information about what is known, and what is not known, so that information gathering and fisheries research can be directed to the right things.
4. To consider some of the changes which are possible or necessary to make metro fishing sustainable.
5. To get organisations and individuals who have the skills and responsibilities to take this further and make the changes.
The following was actually discussed at the AAA Delegates' meeting.
Terry Fuller outlined some proposals which are being considered for recreational and commercial and charter fishing in the metro and near metro area from Dawesville to Two Rocks, 35 nautical miles out to sea, including the adjacent rivers and estuaries. This covers a marine area of about 10,000 square kilometres, plus the rivers and estuaries.
Terry Fuller read the main proposals in the paper, covering suggested recreational, commercial, charter and government actions or changes. He explained that he had given comments on an earlier draft of the paper, some of which had been used and some of which had not.
Some delegates expressed concern that the paper had been distributed in the form they had first seen it. They had problems with some of the principles, and one said that the problem was mainly with the commercial fishing. One said that license proposals gave the government a wedge or an opening for introducing more severe changes. Some of the detailed changes were not explained or supported by enough information.
Terry Fuller explained that it was not certain that commercial fishing was the cause of all the problems, because the recreational catch of some species was also large enough to be significant, but those catch figures were from some years ago.
There were a number of activities going on, such as the recreational boat ramp and capture survey which started in July and would give more accurate data on the recreational boat catch; and the commercial Wetline Fishing Review which would change some aspects of commercial fishing, and were not covered in the paper.
It appeared that the paper by itself gets some quick reactions which are not looking at all the issues involved and are not recognising the things which are happening already or are going to happen, or are likely to happen if people do or continue to do certain things.
Terry Fuller explained that the people who wrote the paper felt they had done all they could do, and that it was now up to other people to pick up the ideas in this paper and do something with them. By the time Terry had received this version of the paper, it had already been distributed to many people with the intention of getting comments and more information.
The draft paper dated 13 August 2005 is "Zone 5" paper (154 kilobyte PDF file.)
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This page last updated 21 August 2005.