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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Gun at government’s head

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With the lifting of fishing prohibitions for marine sanctuary zones, once again the Shooters and Fishers Party have stamped their little feet and clenched their little fists and got everything they wanted, at everyone else’s expense. At least no one could get shot out of this one. This whole debacle over marine parks needs to be put in some perspective.

When the O’Farrell government came to power the Shooters and Fishers demanded a moratorium on all declarations and changes to zonings of marine parks, and it was done. They demanded changes to the Marine Park Act so that all existing parks and marine sanctuaries had to be subject to scientific assessment again; this is being done. The science was done the first time around; it just didn’t agree with the Shooters and Fishers manifesto. It still doesn’t.

To remove local communities from the decision making process in park management, the local community advisory groups were put into hiatus. With closing down of the Marine Park Authority, those local networks, connections and knowledge established over years, from all sectors who have a stake in local marine management, is now lost.

The Shooters and Fishers demanded that the Marine Parks Authority be moved from National Parks (the logical choice) to the Department of Primary Industries, and it was done. Now the Shooters and Fishers have got their final demand, the abolition of the Marine Parks Authority. To be replaced by the maritime version of the NSW Game Council, and a couple of scientists for window dressing.

Local tourism, commercial fishing, conservation, diving, recreational anglers, traditional owners and scientists have been removed from the process. Unless we get a few minutes with Don Page, if we’re lucky, then he has to get a few moments with the minister, if he’s lucky. She’s got a busy schedule; the Shooters and Fishers are demanding children.

Now keep in mind that there is no private ownership of NSW coastal waters and beaches so that, on current estimates, about 96 per cent of our beaches and headlands and inshore waters are available to recreational fishing. If you can get there you can chuck a line in. In truth it’s a little more than that but I’ll err on the side of caution. So this latest grab by the Liberal-Nationals – Shooters and Fishers – is over less than four per cent of our inshore waters, headlands and beaches.

The contribution to increasing the area available to recreational anglers is so infinitesimally small as to make the minister’s comments laughable. The compromising of many of these areas’ conservation and fishing free recreational values should be the real concern. To pull her forelock to a squawking few, the minister is allowing further damage to important samples of marine biodiversity for future generations, critical habitat to threatened species, and juvenile habitat vital to sustainable management of commercial fish stocks.

Arguments to remove the recreational fishing prohibitions from marine sanctuaries can be summed up in two words: selfish and greedy.

By the way, Minister Hodgkinson, I also take my daughter fishing (not just my son) and I have no doubt she would find your comments inferring parents only take sons fishing deeply offensive, especially coming from a woman in a leadership role. Or was this just another Shooters and Fishers press release given to you to deliver? That’s the kind of language I would expect from them.


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  1. Perhaps the fabulous public interest shown so valiantly in Northern Rivers and beyond for protecting freshwater can also be extended to protecting marine water and its many species?


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