SUBMISSION TO UNESCO DELEGATION TO AUSTRALIA, MARCH 2012 The depleted inshore fisheries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park need urgent management change
The issue of the need for urgent management change in the depleted inshore fisheries of the GBRMP has been brought to the attention of UNESCO, through our NSF presentation to the delegates assessing the World Heritage status of the GBRMP, at the meeting in Cairns 13/03/12. NSF provided a five minute talk, along with regional NGOs and tendered our SUBMISSION TO UNESCO DELEGATION TO AUSTRALIA, MARCH 2012 The depleted inshore fisheries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park need urgent management change.
Charter, recreational fishers and some small-scale commercial fishers are deeply concerned that numbers and sizes of large fish found in inshore waters of the GBRMP are at unacceptably low levels. Popular species are currently at risk of commercial and even local extinction. Whilst these risks are currently given insufficient attention by our fisheries management agencies, they do require more and urgent attention. Recent scientific findings indicate that risks to some species currently commercially fished are unacceptably high. Continued netting at present levels may result in the commercial extinction of some local stocks, including King threadfin (salmon), Blue threadfin and Barramundi. Grey mackerel, a fast maturing species which also has local populations, is also considered by line fishers to be at high risk of commercial extinction from netting their pre-spawning and spawning schools. GBRMPA also recognize netting of spawning aggregations to be a high risk activity. Since 2006, three petitions totalling 4,500 signatures have been presented to two members of parliament requesting cessation of gillnetting near the adjacent regional centres of Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns. Those signing included commercial, charter and recreational fishers, persons with interests in the conservation of larger marine animals such as dugong, inshore dolphin and turtles and those with interests in tourism and the fishing sector support industries. Many consider the main cause of the observed decline to be the failure of our fisheries management agencies to adequately manage the fishery. Some of the more serious management failures are identified in this submission. Estuaries and adjacent inshore waters around urban areas have experienced such significant reductions in fish numbers over recent years that they should be formally recognized as overfished. Political parties have now issued new policies recognizing these concerns. Strategies must be developed to reverse the observed decline. These should not include restocking with juvenile fish from other areas. Part-time gillnet fishers present the greatest risk to fish numbers in overfished areas because they may continue to subsidise otherwise unprofitable gillnetting from alternative incomes. Part-time fishers, combined with illegal gillnetting, may cause local populations of the more susceptible species to shift from commercial extinction to local extinction. New management measures are identified which would reduce the impact of gillnetting, around urban and other areas of tourism and fisheries conservation significance and should allow stocks to recover. As under-regulated netting of mackerel carries a high risk fishery of commercial extinction of local populations, Grey and School mackerel should be regulated to join Spanish and Spotted mackerel as line-only species. The new management measures would also reduce the current unacceptably high risks to our inshore fishery as well as to dugong, inshore dolphin, turtles and whales. The resulting recovery of fish numbers would provide a boost to local economies. While re-adjustment will be required to the commercial industry, including buyback of some netting licences, the alternative is the risk of some species becoming commercially extinct. A number of claims are often heard about the economic and social repercussions of reducing current levels of gillnetting. Responses and the concepts behind these are discussed in Appendix 1. The authorities are urged to take effective action before long-term, serious damage is done to inshore fish stocks. In a parallel situation in the USA in the 1990‟s, sports fishers and conservationists combined forces to win a landmark lawsuit against the government for “failing to fulfil its duty to protect fish stocks”. We are currently approaching the need for similar action here in Australia.