IN meetings held in Canberra this week with federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, leaders of Australia's recreational fishing community urged that Australia's 5 million recreational fishers not be "locked out" of any proposed Commonwealth Marine Reserve System.

"Giant foreign multinational environmental groups have waded into Australia's Marine Park planning process demanding the Government zone thousands of kilometres of Australia's oceans to 'Green', effectively locking Australia's recreational fishers out of these areas forever," said Allan Hansard, spokesperson for the newly formed Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) in a press statement.

"This would result in devastating economic and social impacts on the hundreds of Australia's coastal communities that rely on recreational fishing.

"We asked for the Minister not to be influenced by the multi million dollar campaigns of the multinational environmental organisations, rather act in Australia's interests and turn the proposed 'Green lock-out zones' into 'Gold zones'," Hansard said.

"Minister Burke originally proposed 'Gold zones' in recognition of the unique relationship between recreational fishers and Australia's high conservation marine environment. They provide the highest environmental protection to areas of significant marine biodiversity and allow Australia's recreational fishers to experience these areas under strict enforceable rules."

The ARFF's statement outlines the following on zoning proposals:

Why Gold is better than Green
Turning Green zones into Gold zones will:

  • allow Australia to meet its international obligations for marine conservation and become a world leader in marine protection
  • allow superior conservation protection, monitoring and compliance for Australia's unique marine biodiversity
  • not 'lock out' Australia's recreational fishers from Marine Parks but will allow them to assist in their protection, monitoring and compliance so future Australians can experience these unique and iconic areas
  • exclude all commercial extractive activities
  • preserve economic and social benefits to Australia's coastal communities.

"Minister Burke now has the chance to provide a superior environmental, economic and social legacy for all Australians through the Marine Park planning process by turning green into gold. We urge the Minister to 'Go for Gold'.

"Australia's recreational fishers are the bushwalkers of the sea. Locking recreational fishers out of Marine parks is akin to locking bushwalkers out of terrestrial Marine Parks, it should only be done if there is a sound scientific reason to do so. We cannot see any reason to do so," concluded Hansard.

The Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) is the newly formed national peak body representing Australia's Recreational Fishing Community and is supported by the Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA), Recfish Australia, Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA), Sunfish Queensland, Amateur Fishing Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT), Recfish West, Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) NSW, Underwater Skindivers and Fishers Australia (USFA), Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) and the Boating Industry Alliance Australia (BIAA).

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