Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR) has hit back at claims that recreational fishing in marine parks has ‘little impact’ on marine life, calling it an ‘insult’ to its founder.
The group responded angrily to the claims made by Ecofishers’ spokesperson Ken Thurlow on ABC radio earlier this week and called on the state government to ensure that marine parks are protected from shoreline fishing.
‘It is an insult to the lifelong work of Seabird Rescue founder, The Pelican Man, Lance Ferris, to suggest that recreational fishing has little impact,’ said ASR spokesperson Keith Williams.
‘Lance dedicated his life to understanding the causes of entanglements that afflict not only pelicans, but a wide variety of species that forage in the inter-tidal zone.
‘For wildlife, the shoreline is just the most dangerous place to allow fishing.’
Mr Williams said that while pelicans, cormorants and gannets are the most likely to take a bait on an unattended line, all birds that use the beach or rocky headlands would be at increased risk of entanglement in lost or discarded line should the current state-sanctioned trial be allowed to continue.
‘Just go down to any popular fishing spot and look at how much line ends up tangled around the rocks,’ he said.
The rocky headlands and reefs are also prime sea turtle feeding zones, rich in seaweeds, sponges and algae, he added.
‘Seabird Rescue has documented numerous cases of sea turtles either found dead or subsequently euthanased because of horrific injuries caused by fishing line.
‘A turtle that has swallowed fishing line will die from starvation, as its bowel twists itself into knots. It is one of the most slow, agonising deaths imaginable,’ said Mr Williams. ‘I would not wish it on my worst enemy, let alone an innocent creature supposedly protected in a wildlife sanctuary.
‘I’m an active recreational fisher; I enjoy the challenge and the time out in our wonderful coastal environment. But everything has its place. Shore-based fishing may minimise negative impacts on fish stocks, but it maximises the impact on other coastal wildlife,’ said Mr Williams.
‘I urge the minister for the environment to dig up the substantial body of evidence that Australian Seabird Rescue has already provided to government. Recreational fishing is not a low-impact activity. It needs to be carefully managed. With only seven per cent of the NSW coast protected by marine parks there is a strong argument for further protection, not less.’
The Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue has been responding for more than 20 years to ongoing incidents of birds and turtles entangled in, and ingesting, fishing line and tackle.