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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Seabird Rescue urges end to marine-park fishing

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This critically endangered pied oyster catcher was found by ASR volunteers in 2010 entangled in fishing line on Ballina beach. Photo Australian Seabird Rescue
This critically endangered pied oyster catcher was found by ASR volunteers in 2010 entangled in fishing line on Ballina beach. Photo Australian Seabird Rescue

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.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Seabird Rescue is right about the need for protecting shore life. Shoreline fishers are also often disrespectful of vegetation important for stabilising dunes and for fauna habitat when trampling through it to access their fishing spots.

  2. I love to fish but I’m opposed to fishing of any sort in Marine Parks. Marine Parks are proven throughout the world to increase fish stocks. We need areas left alone for animals and plants to recover from some humans greedy grab for every resource there is. The current State Government seems to be sided with a minority faction of fishers and shooters and not paying attention to the majority of the people in NSW that do not want Marine Parks revoked or recreational fishing in them. They are not paying attention to the majority of the people in the Northern Rivers opposed to unconventional gas mining and siding with multinational corporations. This State Government is not listening to the majority of people opposed to hunting in National Parks and allowing amateur hunters to shoot in areas frequented by tourists. This Government has approved mining in critically endangered habitat in Leard State Forest. Forestry Corporation of NSW is reported to have a ‘cavalier attitude towards compliance of regulations’ and the State Government does not seem to be able to get Forestry Corporation to adhere to regulations or take appropriate action when found to have breached regulations. This sort of governance is not democracy but seems to be run by corporate interests and just to appease the minority government so the liberals can rule. It really is a sad time in Australian politics and lack of care for our native plants and animals. If we keep allowing this to happen, scientists are concerned about localised species extinctions from loss of habitat, pollution and climate change. The only voices in our State Government I think that are standing up for the environment are the Greens and Luke Foley.

  3. Ecofishers no more supports the ecologically sustainable management of marine natural resources than the Australian Vaccination Network supported community vaccination programs.

  4. This is a continuation of the most ludicrous, disengenuous fear mongering series of articles on fishing in the Marine Parks it’s possible to imagine. It’s the kind of emotional fact devoid misinformation we’d expect from the Murdoch press, not our beloved Echo.

    To correct just some of the deliberate or ill-informed misinformation in this piece and the others preceding it.

    1: Rec fishing was carried out in most of the marine park before the moratorium on line fishing was announced. This is because most of the Marine Park was Habitat Protection zone or general use zone. So anyone urging this: “majority of the people in NSW that do not want Marine Parks revoked or recreational fishing in them” is clueless because rec fishing was already taking place in Marine Parks and there is no proposal anywhere, not even by the Greens that revokes the existing zoning arrangements.

    2: This kind of ill informed “truthiness” as well as other ignorant conflating of unrelated issues such as mining in National parks or CSG mining is doing great harm to any kind of intellectual integrity of the environmental movement. It’s damaging the credibility of the argument because it is based on such spurious assumption and lack of facts.

    3. Using emotion laden language, possibly (probably) out of context like the following : “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….and …..”For wildlife, the shoreline is just the most dangerous place to allow fishing” is nothing but deliberately inflammatory rhetoric.
    Again, no-one not even the Greens is calling for a complete scrapping of the Zone in Marine Parks and hence rec fishing in Marine Parks. Let alone a complete ban on rec fishing from the shore.

    Please could we have some sanity in this debate. If rubbish and discarded line are problems lets educate and use existing resources from Rangers and Fisheries to fine polluters and abusers.

    And Echo, a tiny bit of balance and less emotional bluster, hype and bad propaganda would be fitting for the communities most trusted media resource.

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