the green fisherman…

Really saddens me to see recent stories regarding new marine parks and sanctuaries lead to ill informed, populist, knee jerk responses from fellow fishermen.

Firstly: conservationists, or ‘greenies’, the word so many fishermen spit out without any clue as to the meaning. What do greenies want? In this case, they want better living conditions for fish species so that those species may prosper and their environment improve. So, what? are all these angry fishermen against that? I don’t think so… when are you all going to realise, YOU ARE ON THE SAME SIDE. That’s right – greenies fought against the dredging, they fought against inappropriate bayside devlopment, they helped with the formation of stronger pollution laws, they organise working bees to clean up the creeks and rivers that flow into our bay, they saved Point Nepean from being another Kennett driven tourist nightmare… Greenies are great!

Next: Scientists. Scientists love an argument. You will not win an argument against a scientist unless you have facts. Science is the gathering of evidence in pursuit of fact. Facts win arguments. Some facts are harder to prove than others, but in the end, all a good scientist cares about is removing doubt. Scientists have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that marine parks and exclusion zones improve the fish habitat and contribute to greater fish numbers. It’s also proven that fish numbers immediately outside marine parks also increase. It is fact that these areas are good for fish, and therefore fishing. They are doing us a favour! Sure, it hurts to have an area cut off from access, but in the end, the aim of a marine park is perfectly aligned with the aim of most fishermen – more fish!

And now: Fisheries. ‘Why aren’t the fisheries down here catching the bad guys?’, and ‘What do I pay my licence fees for?’. Well folks, if you think your piffling licence fees go even half way to paying the wages of the fisheries inspectors, then you’ve been sniffing too much tuna oil! Sure, there are plenty of people who break the rules, but to blame fisheries staff for this is kinda missing the point. It’s the fault of the people breaking the rules! It’s bloody hard to catch them and even harder to enforce. They do their job, but they are massively under-resourced. I just wonder how much people would whine if the licence fees were raised to cover the true cost of enforcement. Go on, put your money where your mouth is – I think not!

So here we are. There are proposals about extending marine parks, there are ideas for better conservation of fish habitats and stocks, and there are acknowledged problems with compliance, but all people seem capable of doing is acting holier than thou and slinging mud. As a fisherman for almost 40 years, it shames me to be associated with such foolish shallowness. I go out on the bay in my canoe and I pick up rubbish floating around as I go, I gather tangled line when I come across it, I see discarded tackle, packaging and rubbish from other fishermen. As a group we are a long way from being blameless. What I’d suggest is that people step back for a moment and realise that they should be thankful for the greenies and the scientists. More than that, we as a group should be getting on board with them. Devising programs that help us both achieve our aims. What about the impact of catch and release zones? barbless hooks? banning larger power boats? banning lead weights? banning anchors? These are all ways in which fishermen could offer to contribute to conservation efforts and science, aligning our efforts instead of squabbling, and all without affecting access to our favourite spots.

The approach I’m seeing, of angry mobs refusing to budge didn’t work for the Mountain Cattlemen, didn’t work when the last round of Marine Parks were created, didn’t stop the Goulburn pipeline and won’t work this time either, so instead of wasting your time creating bad blood and reinforcing stereotypes, get behind your local green group, make contact with the science community and work together toward the common goal we all share.

8 replies on “the green fisherman…”

  1. I’m right there with you Woo Woo, couldn’t agree more. Coming from coastal area, which provided the majority of tourist dollars into our local economy, we too ‘in general’ looked out for the local area, cleaned up rubbish left by tourists, picked cans and bottles out the rocks and old fishing lines, nets etc- because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is creating the mess- if everyone steps in to clean up it helps.
    The other thing that was drummed into us what “only take what you will eat”. Whether you eat fish or not, I think that philosophy has to be applied across the board to anything and everything. We (as a whole) in the western world just plunder until there is nothing left. Those few with a conscience (like yourself) are beating the drum and trying to drag the rest along.
    What kills me, is that half the fish we use for BAIT over here is actually used for meals in other countries. We’ve just got a really skewed perception on the “availability of resources” that needs to change or in as little as 10-20 years there will be nothing to argue about!

  2. In part I agree, however unless they can indicate what the scientific data they have that is going to protect the species that they can not list (except the orange bellied parrot that is listed as in danger from rec fisho’s) then why the requirement for a marine park.

    You mentioned last time around in your closing paragraph, please note that the opinion last time around was not one of a we will not budge, it was one that was open to negotiations which led to Marine Parks, still to this day the Marine park info at Flinders Island does not make mention of any fish species targetted by recreational anglers, no information was gathered prior to naming the park and no research has been done since.

    Please do not think that we are all just part of an angry mob as many of us are passive and educated on whats in store, no mob mentality, just protecting what is ours.

  3. quote;
    The approach I’m seeing, of angry mobs refusing to budge didn’t work for the Mountain Cattlemen, didn’t work when the last round of Marine Parks were created, didn’t stop the Goulburn pipeline and won’t work this time either, so instead of wasting your time creating bad blood and reinforcing stereotypes, get behind your local green group, make contact with the science community and work together toward the common goal we all share.

    But it did fucking stop the VNPA marine parks grab this time…keep posting your lies”ll go far

  4. Ah yes, scientists. Sorry Andrew but science and scientists took a battering during the Global Warming fiasco and now anything claiming to be “science-based” deserves to be viewed with a critical eye.
    More to come but your simplistic voewpoint distrsses me.

  5. Darren – the VNPA is a club. They don’t make public policy or laws. They seek to influence decision makers. I’m pleased fishing lobby groups are also seeking to exert influence, because, as I said earlier, there are far more similarities than differences. So far though, nothing has been ‘stopped’, because there was nothing actually happening. VNPA released a paper – a formalised opinion, some people agreed, some disagreed. The paper hasn’t gone away and neither have the opinions. To think it’s over is foolish and simplistic, but if fishing groups get their act together and start proving they are not dinosaurs, then they should have nothing to fear from the VNPA.

    As for calling me a liar: well, you’ve failed to demonstrate that, but based on your language, spelling and grammar, I’m guessing a well structured argument is beyond your capabilities 😉

  6. And for Roy, well, if you’d followed the news recently you’d have noticed that the recent attempts to discredit climate scientists suffered a fatal blow and the scientists have come out of it just fine.

    All science is viewed with a critical eye, and other scientists are the most critical eyes of all. It’s a fiercely competitive area and if there are any weaknesses in an argument, they will get pulled apart mercilessly. The fact that around 99% of scientists are of one opinion on climate change should tell you that it’s a fairly convincing case.

    Unfortunately, opinions of vested interests such as Big Oil and other climate ‘detractors’ aren’t subjected to anywhere near the same level of scrutiny – a bit like a political opposition, they don’t have to prove anything, just take cheap shots and spread a bit of uncertainty amongst the gullible masses listening to talkback radio and reading the tabloids… (sounds like they got you!) job done!

    To be fair, it is a confusing issue and it’s a lot easier to just pretend everything is OK, but the reality is that it’s already beginning to bite very hard in ways that none of us are prepared for. As fish habitats are affected and marine populations boom and bust, commercial fishing is going to come under enormous pressure and recreational fishing is, by association, going to struggle to maintain a positive image. I’d be so excited if fishing groups took the lead and started improving their image now, before public perception hardens against them.

    Finally, what is it with you and Darren? In future, work on your spelling and grammar, or I don’t approve it!

  7. I’m a greeny, and I agree. WE ARE NOT TRYING TO STOP YOU FROM FISHING! In fact, I grew up fishing with my Grandad and all that.
    But as a diver I also know there are real problems in the marine environment, and fishing plays a big part.
    It is proven that no-take closures lead to a rapid increase in fish stocks, both target species and non-target fish. That is good. It is also proven that these areas then produce much more eggs etc. That is also good.
    It is also pretty close to proven that this improves fishing adjacent to the reserves, and proven where fish stocks are overexploited, which is pretty much everywhere these days. We might even start seeing big fish close to shore again, remember that? It definitely provides an insurance that some of the marine environment is protected against both the known and unknown consequences of fishing.
    I believe, and science + experience shows, that well planned permanent closures around the country will meet the goals of both fishermen and conservationists. Not doing it and continuing as is will lead to a continuing degradation of the environment, and who wants that?

  8. Thanks for the positive comments Terry, it’s a vexed issue. Personally, I am such a crap fisherman that I know I don’t make any impact on fish numbers! but there is a lot of fear out there amongst fishermen that proposed marine parks are going to take away their favourite spots, and I sympathise with their point of view too.

    I used to love taking my kayak out to fish on the sheltered waters of Swan Bay – caught little, kept less, but I can’t do that any more and it’s terribly disappointing.

    What I think fishermen need are two things:

    1. Some proof that the last round of Marine Park closures have had a positive impact. I don’t know where this proof comes from, but I imagine the same people who lobbied for them in the first place would be under some obligation to provide an ROI analysis to justify the buy back of licences etc. and for this proof to be clearly and well communicated to the fishing community.
    2. Some alternatives to closure also investigated – eg: limitations on boats, anchoring, catch and release – there are lots of possibilities that could potentially help strike a palatable balance for all.

    Clearly though, you’re right that we can’t go on like we are now.

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