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Fisheries Management: Where to From Here?
  |  First Published: September 2011



As alluded to in the editorial this month, anglers, representative groups and angling clubs are warming up the fires for the next election. A lot has happened in the background in 12 months and many are wondering just where this will all lead. Below are a couple of letters I have received from anglers who have been involved behind the scenes heavily for the last few years.

Their letters are an eye opener and well worth reading and digesting. Agree or disagree, there are point sin each of these letters that need airing, and discussion.

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT IN CRISIS

Fisheries management in Queensland after the Snapper Review is in crisis. Any doubt that this is the case is dispelled by looking at the hard cold facts of recent events.

Heads rolled in a monumental bloodletting- Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherran, Fisheries DG Jim Groves, as well as the Senior Fisheries Manager have all “moved on to greener pastures”. To date Mulheran was replaced by Craig Wallace, the new Fisheries DG is Ms Maria Mohr, while fisheries managers are engaged in a seemingly pointless game of Russian roulette as they take turns as acting senior manager.

All aspects of the Snapper RIS, which was three years in the making, were not adopted in the Snapper Management Plan released be Deputy Premier Paul Lucas on June 26, 2011.

Public consultation between fisheries and stakeholders was unilaterally cancelled by the new Fisheries Minister Wallace on March 8, 2011. This also removed fisheries managers along with Industry and the general fishing public from having any say on the progress and final outcomes of the Snapper RIS.

The snapper science, which was used as a premise to construct the options in the Snapper RIS, was rejected. Instead an interim political management process has been implemented through to the next snapper review and stock assessment in 2014.

A new recreational fishing advisory group, including Sunfish, is to be formed to advise Minister Wallace on fishing policy. This advisory group will report directly to the Minister. There is no indication that fisheries will be involved at all in this process.

The demolition of an attempt at regional co-management (which was supported by Qld Fisheries and FRDC) in Hinchinbrook, North Qld from outside the local area.

The planning and implementation of large areas of Moreton Bay Marine Park in no take Yellow and Green Zones fishing areas 40% for commercial fishermen, 17 % for recreational fishermen by the EPA, now DERM without Fisheries being a part of the decision making process.

The winding up in 2010 of the Fisheries MAC and ZAC consultation groups which gave Industry and recreational anglers a direct voice in fisheries management.

On July 20, 2011, fisheries was stripped of its enforcement arm, the Boating and Fisheries Patrol, which was moved to MSQ.

The result of the combination of these actions is a fisheries department with shattered morale, no defined leadership in the near future and the real likelihood of having a Ministerial Advisory Group with the power of veto over any possible initiatives. As well as a very clear understanding among Fisheries staff that there are consequences for causing trouble to Governments and the Fisheries Minister in particular.

From a stakeholder viewpoint there is also not much good news. If fisheries are not making management decisions on fishing matters then who will?

The major management of fisheries effort in SE Qld in the past three years has been by DERM, through the creation of Yellow and Green no take zones. And DERM does not care how many recreational or commercial fishers it makes unhappy. So the delight some stakeholders have taken in the current emasculation of fisheries will be very short lived if fisheries disappears altogether and DERM becomes the official fisheries department. All funding for recreational fishing groups and activities would certainly disappear into thin air at the same time.

So where to from here? There is an urgent need to hold a Fisheries Management Summit, in effect a Burns-style inquiry in 2011. It would need to identify best practice required to manage our fisheries sustainably and successfully. This would result in maximum participation and enjoyment for recreational anglers and the maintenance of viable commercial fisheries.

Areas that need addressing urgently include:

• Developing a co-management model between Fisheries and genuinely representative stakeholders groups.

• Developing modern forms of communication to inform the wider stakeholder population.

• Developing catch sharing management arrangements between sectors.

• Developing adequate income streams so that Fisheries can fund quality, needs based research as well as manage stocks sustainably with appropriate management tools.

• Developing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to facilitate the funding of stakeholder representatives in the context of informing, including and consulting and reflecting the wider views of their constituents.

• Revitalising Fisheries and its public servants after the events of the past three years.

• Reinforcing Fisheries as the Department that has overarching responsibility for fishing activities, NOT DERM.

There is no joy for rec or other fishermen in having Fisheries descend into irrelevance as the alternative of DERM as fishing manager is untenable. All fishermen need to be watching the health of Fisheries Qld very closely in the lead up to the imminent State election. We should all be demanding from both Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman that they treat Fisheries as an important Department with plenty of important work to do for the fishing and the wider communities. Both in election promises and actions after the election from the new Qld Government.

Keith Hall (Incredible Charters)

Dear Sunfish members and supporters,

For the benefit of those Sunfish members and supporters who have not been in the organisation since its inception around 20 years ago I would like to tell a true story.

In 1992 when I was secretary of Sunfish Qld the Goss Labour Government was in power and approaching an election. Sunfish wanted to inform its members of any Recreational Fishing Policy which the major Parties had to offer Qld Anglers. As Sunfish Secretary I wrote to the Government and the opposition requesting a Recreational Fishing Policy.

Imagine our excitement when the Goss Government wrote back saying they had appointed Deputy Premier Ton Burns to head up a State Government Inquiry Into Recreational Fishing (SGIRF). The terms of reference were dated 14-12-1992.

This was a master stroke for Premier Wayne Goss because fishes trusted Tom Burns and he had us captivated as he went about conducting the SGIRF. Tom was about developing good Recreational Fishing Friendly Policy to sustain our Qld recreational fishery.

We fishes responded by attending in large numbers the many meeting along our coastline. We also sent in over 4000 written submissions which was the largest number of submissions ever received for any such inquiry.

We raised many issues at these meetings but the request for Recreational Only Fishing Areas (ROFA) near population centres along our Qld coast was heard at every meeting. Tom explained to us that what we were asking for was a reallocation of resource from commercial sector to recreational fishing sector. To achieve this outcome Fisheries would need to buy out commercial effort in the ROFA. Tom advised us that Fisheries would need funds to conduct the Buy Back. Tom asked us if we would accept a levy on our boat rego to be used by Fisheries for things like buy back.

We believed that Tom proposed this in good faith so we supported the proposal. This is how the PPV levy was added to your boat rego which raised $2,000,000 in 1993 increasing every year to $4,500,000 in 2010. Through this levy we have contributed around 50,000,000 over the past 17 years to Fisheries.

When the Inquiry finished Tom took the recommendations back to Cabinet where they were endorsed and sent off to DPI&F Minister Ed Casey. I was at the Policy Council Meeting chaired by Ed Casey where we hoped the SGIRF recommendations would be adopted to form policy.

Imagine our disappointment when Ed Casey picked up the SGIRF report, complemented our efforts in helping Tom to produce the document and then informed us that he would now put the document up on the shelf so he could refer to it sometimes when he was making decisions.

We were shattered, the Fisheries staff were delighted and resolved to punish us for going outside Fisheries looking for Recreational Fishing Policy. The Inshore Fisheries Plan and the recent Snapper Management Plan which Fisheries tried to impose on us gives you some idea what we have had to endure over the years.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though since fisheries have been moved from DPI&F to Main Roads and Marine Infrastructure we have a new Minister and a new Department.

Both Tom Burns and Ed Casey have passed on but it is Tom who we have fond memories of. If only the SGIRF recommendations were adopted by DPI&F history would be so different. The Goss Government would not have lost the election which came down to Mundingborough in Townsville where Recreational Fishermen are plentiful. Both NSW and NT have allocated areas for Recreational Fishing use years ago yet in Qld even after paying $50,000,000 in advance we are still waiting.

Kind Regards,

Jeff Ahchay (Secretary, Sunfish)

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