Confused by what’s happening to the NSW Marine Park? Re-zoning of sanctuaries and amnesties on not being able to fish? Me too. Not surprisingly though – there does seem to be a concerted effort to bamboozle the public on this one. Here’s an Infographic to explain the process. Read on for the detail.
Back in 2012, a Scientific Panel was set up to audit NSW’s Marine Sanctuaries. They determined that our marine sanctuaries need more protection and more strategic research on a scientific basis. Pretty straightforward, right?
Somehow, here we are in 2016 with a panel of economists making recommendations about our coastal management. These economists, appointed by the same government who commissioned the original research, have a brief to ensure recreational fishing continues in what were once sanctuary zones within the Marine Park network.
Err… let me just read that again?!? The audit recommendations more protection, yet the outcome is: let’s find a way to let the fishermen back in there.
How did they do that?
In the old days, if you didn’t like the message, you could just shoot the messenger. Nowadays you just move the goalposts and bamboozle the public by making the process so protracted that no one has the willpower to follow the machinations.
So, let’s pull it apart – you’ll probably need to reference the Infographic again – and for every paragraph you digest, I’ll toss in a fish.
Basically, they did it by ignoring the recommendations of a Scientific Panel and establishing another Panel lead by an economist.
Let’s start with the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA), which was established to: “set out a robust legal requirement to assess economic, social and environmental threats, such as pollution, loss of biodiversity, restricted access, anti-social behaviour, and impacts of pests and diseases.”
So apart from ensuring we don’t have a loss of biodiversity, i.e., at least one breeding pair of each kind of fish remain, protection of the marine environment is no longer part of its brief.
Threat and Risk Assessment
And they do this by establishing – NOT A PANEL OF MARINE SCIENTISTS – but another panel called: Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel (MEEKP), chaired by an ECONOMIST. And they use a Threat and Risk Assessment, which is all economics and social science, instead of marine science.
In MEMA’s 2014 Annual Progress Report (published October 2015), they state:
“A Threat and Risk Assessment Framework has been developed that will provide a basis for recommending management responses to the NSW Government. Although it sounds straight-forward, we are not aware this approach has been used before in coastal management and developing a process to apply at a range of geographic scales proved to be quite challenging.”
English translation: this kind of framework has never been used before for this kind of problem and we’re struggling a bit.
Possibly because they’ve already moved the goalposts: the problem is now coastal management – not marine protection; and they’ve got to retrofit an economic tool to give them the outcome they want.
Surprisingly then, the conclusion of the Risk Assessment was that recreational fishers aren’t impacted much by having the no-take zones (Risk=”Low” at every single site), whereas the risks to threatened species, access conflict, captured fish assemblages, and scientific sites varied from low, to moderate, to high across the different sites.
English translation: the impact on recreational fishers of no-take zones is low, but the impact on the ENVIRONMENT if we DO NOT have no-take zones, varies from low to high – depending on the exact site.
Within the Social Assessment component of this Framework, a survey of interested stakeholders was completed. Some of the interested stakeholders anyway.
The government-appointed panel happened to have handy the names and addresses of 77,905 people who hold recreational fishing licences. So they invited them all to participate – plus 650 other people from across the community to ensure the input was balanced.
Let’s face it, it would have been too hard to contact any of the 16,000 divers or 350,000 surfers or the millions who go to the beach at the weekend.
To be fair, MEEKP were honest about Assessment Limitations:
“Firstly, the ecological risks estimated during this assessment assessed only the risks of direct impacts on individual fish populations and direct impacts on habitats from physical damage. Consequential or indirect impacts, such as changes to predator-prey relationships, have been shown to occur as a result of fishing activities and to have significant effects on habitat effects associated with rocky reefs; however, these ecological risks were not able to be considered during this assessment.”
English translation: we couldn’t actually be arsed to consider any ecological risks.
Hence in the conclusion they write:
“The ecological risk assessment was informed by a review of the literature by NSW Department of Primary Industries, …” and in the next paragraph:
“The review of the literature found no studies that specifically address the impact of recreational shore-based fishing at the amnesty sites or at similar sites in NSW.”
English translation: because we didn’t actually consider the ecological risks, we thought we’d just read up on it; but actually, no one in NSW DPI has ever performed any thorough studies.
Which is perhaps why the Scientific Audit Committee recommended a Scientific Committee to oversee strategic research in the first place back in February 2012.
All Little Green Lies
Despite the lack of actual relevant literature, there were lots of useful references, which someone must have read, because one of their objectives was to deal with ‘over-reactions to perceived global environmental threats’.
A Technical Paper, part of the Framework, cites its second reference as: “Little Green Lies: An Expose of Twelve Environmental Myths”, by a certain Jeff Bennett. Chapter 9 of which quite nonchalantly claims: ‘
‘there is no scientific consensus that climate change is largely caused by human activities’
Unfortunately, the same Jeff Bennett is co-author of a number of the other documents referenced.
The bottom line is that no-one really knows what impact recreational fishers have at all, never-mind the impact in Marine Sanctuaries.
The last study of any kind of impact of recreational fishing was by G. W. Henry in 1984 in Sydney Harbour. A 12-month sampling campaign during the years 1980–1982 was conducted and over 108,000 kg of fish were caught commercially during this time. In the same
In the same period recreational fishers removed 164,700 kg of fish;
i.e. over 60% of all fish removed from around Sydney Harbour was by recreational rather than commercial fishermen.
Any diver knows that a Marine Sanctuary (a no-take zone) will be full of a big diversity of fish, and that these places provide the nurseries for the fish that are caught in adjacent zones. In fact, most fishermen recognise this fact too. We need more research, and more protection in the right places, and every one – particularly recreational fishers – will benefit.
So, you can let MEEKP and MEMA continue to try to bamboozle us, with their, quite frankly, irrelevant Threat and Risk Assessment Framework, or you can stand up and be counted.