Australian Anglers Association, (WA Division) Inc.
Submission on Ningaloo Marine Park.
The Australian Anglers Association has prepared the following initial comments on the proposed extensions to the Ningaloo Marine Park as detailed on CALM's website.
6 February 2004
Stuart Field, Marine Planning Officer,
Department of Conservation and Land Management, Marine Branch
47 Henry Street,
FREMANTLE WA 6161
Comments on draft revised zoning scheme for Ningaloo Marine Park and proposed additions.
The following comments on the draft document have been prepared on behalf of the Australian Anglers Association by Secretary Terry Fuller.
The Association places great importance on the future of recreational fishing, the habitats and the fish resource it depends on, and equitable access to areas for fishing. These are all very high priority in the Association's objectives.
The Association fully supports and actively promotes conservation and responsible fishing, and will not argue with any changes which are proven to be really necessary and will be effective for the preservation of the environment and/or conservation of fish stocks.
We ask that the process of deciding those changes be supported by data which shows that these are needed and will be effective, equitable and will share the effort and impact among all parties which are involved in affecting the abundance of fish or the environment.
We recognise the unique values of the Ningaloo Reef and agree that Marine Park status is appropriate.
Fisheries Management and Marine Parks.
A principal issue is the failure of the Western Australian government system to integrate the responsibilities and contributions of the two departments involved in Marine Parks, CALM and the Department of Fisheries.
The Fisheries Department manages fish stocks and fish captures State and region wide, with additional special controls in some particular regions or areas. CALM appears to wish to overlay no take zones and area controls and use "the need to manage the take of fish" as a justification for these zones, when fish are already managed on a wider scale. We also object to proposals to close areas to fishing if fishing has nothing to do with other things which might really need to be protected or managed in those areas.
The current lack of interaction with the Department of Fisheries is exemplified by the way that the Proposed Zoning Scheme appears to have ignored the recent changes to fishing regulations in the Gascoyne region which have reduced the daily bag limits for many targeted species.
Far larger impacts occurs from large scale extraction of finfish species in the region or nearby areas or during their migration to or around the area, and proper fisheries management everywhere has greater potential for improvement in fish abundance than banning fishing for them in some areas.
If CALM has reservations about the effectiveness of fisheries management by the Department of Fisheries, those issues need to be resolved but not by duplication or additional closed area restrictions introduced by CALM.
Control for increased pressure along the coast must be for the whole of the park and region and if that needs tighter region wide restrictions, that's the right way to go. Sanctuary areas must not be used in an attempt to compensate for any failure in any other fisheries or environmental management.
It appears to the Association that the opinions of a limited group, including the CCPAC, have been used in lieu of good scientific information. This is particularly apparent in Section 3.9 of the Framework for the Review where it says "Whether this regional (recreational fishing rules) approach is, in itself, adequate to manage the greater pressure on targeted fish stocks in the Park, compared to other parts of the region, requires careful consideration."
We note the MPRA position in the Framework for the Review of Ningaloo Marine Park Management Plan was that "current management arrangements for recreational fishing in NMP be reviewed, including the option of seasonal closures during spawning periods for selected species". Despite this statement, there is no indication that this has occurred other than to push for increases in no-take areas.
If one part of the problem is simply that too many fish are being caught, and if that is supported by real research data, then that should be handled by catch limits, and not by closing areas.
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.
The Association accepts the possibility that the current Gascoyne recreational Fishing rules may not all be suitable for the Ningaloo Marine Park, and believes that there should be a separate Marine Park Fisheries Management group to examine and assess fishery management issues for the marine park.
Marine Conservation by No Take Closures based on Area.
The Association believes there is an over concentration on No Take Zones as the principal method of marine conservation effort by CALM in Marine Parks.
The draft document seems to rely on a general area based objective for No Take Zones to justify the increase in the no take sanctuary zones in the Ningaloo Marine Park.
The scientific criteria developed for the Representative Areas Program (RAP) for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area of 30-50% of the total area of a bioregion as recommended by the Townsville Declaration on Coral Reef Research and Management has been used without any attempt to justify or explain if or how this translates to the Ningaloo Marine Park.
The Great Barrier Reef is subject to different pressures from the level of exploitation and use and heavy run off of silt, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides from very large areas of intensive farming in an area of high rainfall. Some tropical reefs in other parts of the world are subjected to massive overfishing with inappropriate and damaging fishing methods which do not occur in Western Australia, yet the needs and experience in these parts of the world are used as "justification" for large closures in the Ningaloo Marine Park.
CALM uses reports of the success of some closed no take areas in some other parts of the world to justify the need for closed areas in WA. But some of those areas were VERY heavily fished and fish stocks were in VERY serious decline and thus closing areas DID have a big effect. That experience does not necessarily translate to WA where fish stocks are generally not under such pressure.
One potential danger of closing extra areas where existing fishing is claimed to be detrimental, is that it will simply transfer and put more fishing pressure on the adjacent areas and other areas which remain open. That will cause those areas to be affected even more, (assuming local fishing is actually the major impact), which will lead for pressure to close those, as has already been used as justification for the proposed extra closures in Ningaloo.
CALM are required to manage the WHOLE park, not just the closed sanctuary areas, and simply transferring the fishing effort is not a responsible action nor an effective response to a perceived problem.
Problems come when CALM tries to use or justify area closures to manage fish stocks, or close areas to fishing when fishing has nothing to do with other things which might really need to be protected or managed in those areas.
Impact of Recreational Catches.
Justification for extra closed areas includes an assumption explained in "Recent research in NMP by Westera (2003) showed evidence of trophic cascades in the recreation zone adjacent to the Mandu sanctuary zone that are likely to have resulted from the removal of 'top-end' predators targeted by recreational fishermen".
The study does not provide any evidence of "overfishing" in terms of recruitment overfishing. There is no evidence to suggest that current levels of fishing are causing adult stocks to be reduced to the extent that recruits produced are insufficient to maintain the current populations.
We note that there is no evidence offered that the catch by recreational anglers is solely responsible for this effect. We question what impact professional fishing activities including the finfish bycatch and mortality due to Prawn trawling in Exmouth Gulf has on the stocks of mature fish in the northern part of the Marine Park.
The assumption implies that recreational catches are solely responsible, since the "cure" includes increased no take zones which (we understand) only or mainly affect recreational anglers. This reinforces the view that recreational fishermen are the "soft target" where "something" can be done, but not necessarily what really needs to be done to solve the problems.
Where is the action on total catches in the region including those by professional fishermen? We submit that an alternative "cure" for the impacts seen could well be different management of fishing activities in other parts of the region including outside of the Marine Park boundaries.
Recreational anglers have had tighter catch limits imposed on them, but there have not yet been corresponding changes to the management of professional fishing. Recreational anglers want Department of Fisheries to move forward with outcomes from the wetline review and integrated management. CALM and the Committee should use its influence to push for the Department of Fisheries to implement an Integrated Fishery management that ensures an Ecologically Sustainable Managed Fishery, because we believe this has the potential for much greater improvement in fish stocks than sanctuary zones.
Choice and Justification of Areas for No Take Zones.
A limitation in the review process which resulted in these proposals is the notable absence of scientific data as a base for any alterations to current zoning and management. The changes proposed in the draft zoning plan are certainly not supported by scientific information. The Ningaloo Marine Park Management Plan 1989-1999 emphasised the need for research and monitoring as a basis for proper management of the Park.
The document does not contain enough information about why the particular areas shown on the map have been chosen for us to give many detailed comments about their suitability for achieving some objectives or otherwise. In our opinion, the document does not have give an adequate explanation of the objectives or why these particular areas were chosen.
The documentation needs to establish what is to be protected from what threat from what activities. The actual zones recommended need to be justified to make sure that any sanctuary/no take zones are the only way of achieving the protection, and are no larger than they need to be to protect whatever is decided needs to be protected in that area.
It is completely unacceptable that activities such as trolling for pelagic fish outside the reef should be banned in the sanctuary areas. There is no justification for preventing trolling because it could not possibly have any impact on anything that might need to be protected in sanctuary zones.
We submit that all activities should be allowed in all zones unless those activities are proven to be incompatible with the declared purpose for the existence of the zone.
It is believed CALM has concerns about compliance, and has concerns about the difficulties of checking activities if some things are allowed in the sanctuary zones. We do not accept complete closures simply to make it easy for someone to check compliance, particularly in the current environment of little effective compliance checking anyway.
Shore based fishing zones should allow recreational line fishing for finfish from the shore or by wading, standing on rocks, reefs, etc. in at least a 200m strip from the shore line.
Marine Conservation in Western Australia.
The Association is dissatisfied with the current process for planning marine conservation reserves in Western Australia.
A particular concern is a later step of "a 3 month public submission period". We are concerned at what is missing in this process, based on the experience with the equivalent part of the consultation process over the Jurien Bay Marine Park which was misrepresented to many people.
The review of the public submissions is closed and within CALM / MPRA and therefore liable to claims of bias and selective interpretation of the submissions. We do not believe this process delivers what it appears to promise. Without the process being open, it is not acceptable to many people.
The Indicative management plan can be changed considerably and offered to the Ministers without any opportunity for the public to know if or how their submissions were used. It is claimed that a summary of submissions is also made available to the public. We agree this should happen, but it has still not been completed for Jurien Bay even though the Park was dedicated over 5 months ago.
The process needs to be changed to require the release of the final proposed version for public information before any version is locked in by gazettal.
We expect that the residents of W.A. will know what is proposed before it is submitted to Parliament and applied. That is real transparency, and it is as expressed in CALM's Public Participation Policy http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/calm_public_participation.html , which says:-
4. The participatory process will be objective, open, fair and carried out in a responsible and accountable manner.
5. Public participation processes will emphasise the sharing of information, joint learning and understanding.
6. Data and information used in the decision making process will be available to stakeholders, and
10. Participants will be informed as to how their involvement affected the Department's or Government's decisions.
Composition of Coral Coast Parks Advisory Committee (CCPAC).
The MPRA and CALM appear to have opted for a process in which they use local supporters of a proposed park, with strong philosophical support for the CALM process, and do not engage in general consultation on the wider issues which arise when there is formal stakeholder representation. The recreational fishing sector will be impacted upon by these proposals to the greatest extent, yet the peak recreational fishing body has been excluded from the formal process.
As previously elsewhere, it appears to the Association that the opinions of a limited group, including the CCPAC, have been used in lieu of good scientific information.
While the Association recognises the need for significant local community involvement, the Marine Park is a resource for the entire community and the importance of a strategic, State-wide outlook must not be overlooked especially when visitor interests are extremely important as at Ningaloo.
The Association strongly supports the decision to release this proposed zoning scheme for public comment prior to preparation of the formal draft plan for formal public consultation. We understand the multi step process and the early stages of the Ningaloo proposals.
However, the Association believes this places an unnecessary onus on recreational anglers to argue against proposals which appear to have already been decided and which have a significant impact on their access to areas in the Marine Park.
If necessary, anglers have to try to convince a committee that the areas should be changed, instead of having a say in the choice of the areas in the first place.
Impact of Removal of Pelagic Species.
The Association questions the impact of catching the common pelagic species in the numbers taken from some of these areas, compared to the total number taken in the region.
We understand that MPRA / CALM want to be able to adjust management to suit the circumstances, but these only ever seem to result in increased restrictions. 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.
Would we be given a guarantee in the management plan that if no research is done, or if the research can't address that issue, or if the research shows that any change in the ecosystem from removal of the pelagic species is ecologically sustainable and insufficient to justify the ban on recreational line fishing from the shore, that areas will be reopened to that sort of fishing in the next review in 10 years time?.
Proper management of fish can include timed closures, area closures, species bans, limits on the gear used, or combinations of these for spawning or nursery areas, areas/species under too much pressure, areas set aside for special purposes, etc. but these must all be justified by research and data which shows that these are right and necessary and will actually be effective.
Specific responses to proposed zoning changes and additions.
The only information available about the proposed areas is as shown on the A3 sized maps with very little details of the exact locations of the boundaries or the size of the zones. Any comments on this draft are subject to additional comments when the exact details are provided.
Point Murat. The Association has no strong objection to this proposed extension. The objectives for having a closed area around the jetty itself should be explained and listed, and the maximum possible length of beach should remain open for fishing from the shore. The distance from the jetty where fishing is not allowed should only be the minimum necessary to achieve the stated objectives.
Bundegi. The Association supports a small extension but without adequate explanation of the reasons for or size of the proposed extension, we are unable to comment further.
Lighthouse Bay. The proposal to establish a sanctuary zone of the size proposed closed to fishing in Lighthouse Bay is strongly opposed. This would have a high social cost as there are a variety of users of this area. It is popular for shore-based fishing due to the proximity to a major caravan park patronised by many Western Australian, interstate and overseas visitors.
Jurabi. This proposal is opposed. It is an area of the park which is close to visitor accommodation and a boat ramp and has high amenity value for recreational fishers. We wonder why the area proposed is taken only from the existing recreational area and does not include any of the deeper water in the General use zone, yet the Management Plan seeks to address "poorly represented in the northern section of the Park and in the deeper waters" (page 8).
Tantabiddi. The Association is opposed to this proposal. It is extremely close to the boat ramp at which quite small boats are launched to fish in the safe area near the boat ramp. There does not seem to be any logic in proposing this area as a sanctuary zone, particularly in the absence of any scientific justification. A more specific explanation is required.
New Zones. The Association is opposed to restrictions on shore based fishing in almost all of the new zones proposed, including all zones in the proposed extension. The Association sees no reason why the low impact activity of shore fishing with a rod and line should be excluded from all these areas without explanation and justification.
Other proposals. The Association has no detailed comments on other proposals at this stage as outlined earlier, other than to object to the seaward extension of zones beyond the outer reef without further justification.
There is little justification for the expansion of current sanctuary zones seaward. Using the paper by Westera & Hyndes (2001) as one of the reasons for the extensions is ludicrous. To suggest that areas would provide the "potential" to protect a single genus of demersal fish by closing an area that may represent habitats "often" associated with spawning sites does little to justify the extension.
Overview of response to proposed zoning scheme.
· The CALM planning process continues to ignore fisheries management as a tool to maintain ecological sustainability of fish catches.
· There is a critical need to establish an understanding between the Department of Fisheries and CALM regarding marine parks in general and Ningaloo in particular.
· It is imperative that fisheries management be involved as an important component in the planning and management process for Marine Parks.
· The Townsville Declaration on Coral Reef Research and Management must be put into context as being largely concerned with addressing problems associated with subsistence fishing in underdeveloped islands of the Indo/Pacific region that are predominantly void of any realistic recreational and/or commercial fishery management, and may not apply to Ningaloo Marine Park.
· Zoning by itself is not the solution. There is a need to recognise that zoning is only one of the management tools available for natural resource management and that other fisheries management tools have been successful and strongly supported by recreational anglers where there has been meaningful input into their development.
· Zone changes have been proposed in the absence of scientific data to support those extensions. Information from the few scientific papers referred to have largely been taken out of context and in particular do not justify the seaward extensions of sanctuary zones into deeper waters.
· Even fourteen years after the establishment of the Park, a precautionary approach has been adopted without any significant use of the experience gained over that period.
· There is urgent need for strategically planned and ongoing scientific evaluation to become part of the process.
· Boundaries need to be clearly marked and readily identifiable for understanding of their extent.
· The Committee must understand the importance of developing a zoning scheme that is appropriate, practically feasible and socially acceptable to users of area and supported by the wider community. This follows one of the Strategic Objectives as set out in the framework Paper namely "To facilitate and manage recreational activities in the Park within an equitable and ecologically sustainable framework."
The Association is not satisfied with this review process which has excluded adequate recreational fishing representation, and has not justified or explained the proposals.
This review of Ningaloo Marine Park appears to have ignored the proper role of fisheries management to the objectives of the Park. Although current fisheries management is not all it should be, closing more areas is not the solution.
It is suggested that the consultation and coordination with the Department of Fisheries would lead to a better outcome. The Association believes the government should ensure that such an integrated approach is used.
The Association requests that a different committee which properly represents the range of stakeholders be asked to consider the submissions on the Proposed Zoning Scheme and to assist in completing the Draft Management Plan for formal public consultation.
Please contact me for any further information or clarification.
Australian Anglers Association (WA Division) Inc.
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