• Image: Warren Keelan
    Image: Warren Keelan

THIS letter from well known charter skipper Tim Dean details the regs etc now needed to operate in the new federal marine park set up. It's red tape gone mad!

I have been involved with the development process of the new MPA for all Commonwealth waters in Australia since its inception many years ago. I am a charter operator utilising the entire east coast of Australia through numerous existing MPA’s, in two different states.

To continue to operate in the newly announced MPA’s I have to now apply to the Department of the Environment and Water Resources for an approval from the Director of the National Parks..? Two separate Federal Government Departments.

So get your application from someone and get approval from someone else..Seem strange? Well if you have been in the industry for as long as I, no not strange at all.

Here is why.
To operate my vessel Calypso and to take a PAYING passenger fishing I have the following obligations:

NSW Maritime, NSW Marine Park Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industry from whom I hold a Master Class 5 license, Marine Engineering certificate, NSW Survey certificate, NSW MPA permit for Port Stephens Great Lakes MPA and a NSW Charter Boat Fishing license all of which have a mandatory submittal of logbook returns to continue to operate or face fines and cancellation of your life as you know it, if you don’t remember to have them submitted on time.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA is a federal Government body), QLD Department of Transport, QLD Department of Primary Industry from each I hold a GBRMPA permit, QLD survey Certificate, Master 5 Certificate, Marine Engineers Certificate, Commercial Tour Permit (charter fishing).Each of these has mandatory logbook submittals or lose your life as you know it and a fine.

My crew and I hold First Aid certificates, Perform CPR Certificate and Oxy Viva operators Certificate each have renewals to adhere to or risk losing your life as you know it...and a fine.

Now with the introduction of the soon to be proclaimed Federal government MPA around Australia I am invited to apply for approval to operate inside these new areas to conduct fishing charters, whale watching and other tourism activities. WOW thanks.

This will mean another permit from the Department of the Environment and Water Resources with approval given from the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife to operate in certain waters amongst others waters managed by those other departments and regulatory bodies mentioned above, split between two different states and Federal and State Government Departments. There are also several more logbooks and you guessed it fines and criminal charges if you do not have all this in place BEFORE you leave the dock! I certainly laugh when I hear that old Chestnut about a visit to the RTA office for a driver’s license renewal or car rego. Give me one license and one registration any day!

Dazed, drifting and confused I troll through the GUIDE for the South East region near Tassie which I base the Temperate East and Coral Sea approval process on I read, “Commercial Operators are invited to apply for an approval” then in the very next paragraph in bold highlighted text it states “COMMERCIAL TOURISM OPERATORS WILL NEED TO APPLY...AND AGREE TO COMPLY WITH THE CONDITIONS IN ORDER TO BE APPROVED”..?

Back to the GUIDE.

The GUIDE states an “approval is a legal instrument that allows identified activities to occur in a marine reserve in the absence of a management plan for that reserve... approval is given by the Director of the National Parks OR his delegate, who has the statutory responsibility for the management of all Commonwealth reserves”. Why I ask, in the absence of a management plan do I need approval from someone responsible for the management of the area when approval is based on the assumption there is no management plan. What the..?

Cop this...

Without an approval, users of the South-east Marine Reserves are not allowed to undertake any commercial tourism activity or catch native species”.

(I should point out I am sitting in a small village at the foot of the Snowy Mountains at my folks place, right in the middle of the Kosciusko National Park where one doesn’t have to go far to see the great management that goes on down this way..! native species hey?)

To make things a little clearer the GUIDE goes on to inform me “How will the Commonwealth Marine reserve Network be managed”..?

Now get your head around this lot....

“Reserve management responsibilities for the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network rest primarily with the Australian Government through the Director of National Parks. The Director has delegated this authority to the Marine and Biodiversity Division of the Department.

Day-to-day management arrangements for the Reserve Network will vary from reserve to reserve. In some reserves, management services will be provided by state conservation and fisheries agencies, under business agreements with the Department. In other reserves the Marine and Biodiversity Division of the Department will directly manage the reserves and engage other agencies such as the Australian Customs Service to provide compliance and enforcement services”.

Just when you thought things were not making sense here are the guiding principles to keep your faith in the system, please pay particular attention to part 2 and 6.

The guiding principles of the compliance and enforcement program for the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network

Will be to:

1. provide a comprehensive education and awareness program regarding the values of the network, the location of the reserves and the rules that apply in each, with a view to maximising voluntary compliance;

2. Implement collaborative arrangements with appropriate state and Commonwealth agencies to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of compliance and enforcement arrangements;

3. Develop a targeted surveillance and enforcement program based on good intelligence and risk assessment;

4. Ensure consistent and appropriate responses are employed when compliance action is required, using a measured combination of administrative, civil and criminal sanctions;

5. Provide a mechanism by which suspected breaches can be reported and recorded;

6. Minimise where possible the administrative burden and costs to users of the Reserve Network; and

7. Protect commercially sensitive information. 

If I was as a guide for my industry like this is a guide for us simple fisherman through this process I would have been out of business for other reasons than over regulation.

I read on and just get further into the deep dark abyss of this GUIDE. To my surprise I catch one part standing out like a beacon on a dark night at sea, something I can take away from this, something I can be certain of...

Conducting commercial tourism operations without approval or in contravention of approval conditions is an offence (Section 354A). The maximum penalty on conviction is up to two years imprisonment or 1000 penalty units or both. Alternatively, the Federal Court may impose a civil penalty of up to 500 penalty units for an individual or 5000 penalty units for a corporation (Section 354).

One penalty unit currently equals $110.

Yes be very certain of the above. Oh I forgot this too,

How do I recognise an officer authorised under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act1999? 

An EPBC Act authorised officer is a person who has been trained and appointed as a warden under the EPBC Act and will hold official identification.

The Department also has arrangements with other state and Commonwealth compliance agencies. Officers conducting compliance activities under these arrangements will be able to identify themselves as either an officer of the agency they are employed by or as a warden under the EPBC Act. 

Compliance, penalties, officers, agencies, criminals and now...... wardens!!!

God help us all.

Captain Tim Dean
Calypso Fishing Adventures.

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