CEO Message – Marine Park maps to be released this week

Later this week we expect to see the release of the draft Indicative Management Plans for the Proposed South Coast Marine Park (PSCMP) and the extension of the Marmion Marine Park (MMP).

After three years of frustrations dealing through a very difficult consultation process, we will finally see the government’s interim recommendations, which will be released for a four-month public feedback process.

WAFIC has vigorously raised legitimate concerns over the process to date, so the government now has the opportunity to define what it has termed as “striking the right balance” between environmental and socio-economic factors.

WAFIC retains an open mind as to what will be released and despite some passionate objections over the process in the past, we will come forward and give credit where it is due if the plans happen to propose some sensible outcomes.  By the same token, we are duty bound to point out the existence of any shortcomings.

The commercial fishing industry has never objected to marine parks with sanctuary zones. We have always looked for a win-win outcome where fishing can be sensibly continued while adequate environmental measures are put in place.

Indeed, our industry rallied together and proposed that a whopping 10.7 per cent of the enormous PSCMP could be placed into no-take areas.  We understand this equates to 1,300 square kilometres, which is a massive area of water to place into permanent sanctuaries.

In making this gesture, our industry participants knew full well that the loss of this amount of key fishing area would have a very significant impact on their livelihoods, however they are prepared to make this sacrifice to meet community expectations of marine park sanctuaries.

At the same time, it must be appreciated that this is not a bargaining position, it is a clear offer, as anything beyond 10.7 per cent would be very damaging, and in certain fisheries quite devastating.

Therefore, we live in hope that the government has finally appreciated the human values at play and realises that areas of sanctuary zones can be delivered without destroying local people’s livelihoods.

Criteria

Once the Indicative Management Plans are released, WAFIC will objectively make its assessment, initially based on the following criteria:

  1. Total area of proposed no-take zones

The generous 10.7 per cent offering by the commercial industry is seen as the upper limit, given the unavoidable socioeconomic damage beyond that point.

  1. Scientific evidence and rationale

We will closely seek out the existence and veracity of the scientific evidence provided by government which supports their position.

  1. The likely impacts on key fisheries

We will evaluate the impacts upon different fisheries and locations, as well as studying the rationale behind site selections.

  1. Socio-economic impacts

We will closely examine and scrutinise any data provided to demonstrate that the socio-economic impacts (local, regional, state) have been adequately identified and taken into account. However, the most important criterion of all is whether the government has demonstrated fairness and decency for human values.

  1. Cumulative impacts of losses of productive waters across the state

As WAFIC has always strongly advocated, potential government decisions which impact upon the marine estate, especially marine parks and industrial developments, need to be evaluated for the cumulative impacts. Particularly upon the current dangerously low availability of local fresh fish to the WA community.

  1. Evidence that DBCA has listened to local input

Throughout the consultation period there has been a perception of pre-determined outcomes at play and the input of fishers and the local community have been ignored (while the views of radical eco-scientists and overseas eco-lobbyists have prevailed.) The government now has the opportunity to demonstrate whether or not this has been the case.  For starters, it must demonstrate that the Community Reference Committee (CRC) has been prioritised as a key stakeholder.

  1. Evidence of consideration of the displaced impacts

Throughout the consultation phase this was continually raised, but dismissed.  Experience in other marine parks indicates that when certain areas are locked away, there is an accompanying shift in recreational and commercial fishing pressures onto other sites.  If not properly accounted for, this new concentrated activity upon smaller areas, can create unsustainable pressures.

  1. Evidence of sound DBCAs engagement with indigenous groups

Given the indigenous groups have been granted Project Partner status equal to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), we need to see that this partnership is genuine and not a screen to allow DBCA to proceed regardless.  It needs to be demonstrated that indigenous groups have been properly engaged, they are genuine participants, and that opportunities will be provided for direct engagement by the commercial fishing industry with these groups before final zoning decisions are made.

  1. Compliance modality

Compliance is an essential component which has not been given adequate consideration in past marine parks.  With inadequate planning, the design of sanctuary areas can make it problematic for recreational and commercial fishers to comply, plus it can be very costly for the taxpayer.  For instance, the Buccaneer Archipelago ended up looking like a jigsaw puzzle with thousands of unnecessary kilometers of boundaries to police, this subsequently required the government to invest tens of millions of dollars into a new patrol boat and staff and operational costs, which could have been avoided with intelligent forethought.  The 1200 kilometres of south coast in the PSCMP will be very difficult to monitor unless smart thinking has been applied to the compliance methodology, which in turn will sensibly influence the zoning designs.

  1. Other factors

Invariably there will be other factors which arise once the plans are released.  These will include clarification over the future of estuary fishing, whether the marine park boundaries lie at the low water mark, high water mark, storm water mark, or elsewhere, and whether native title settlements or ILUAs have jurisdictional precedence over the marine park areas.

 Watch this space

Over the coming weeks WAFIC will undertake detailed assessments and consultations with various fishers to ensure we can develop a detailed response to the released maps.

Whatever the outcome, we encourage each and every fisher to provide written input to the formal community feedback process.  WAFIC will be making a comprehensive submission prior to the June cut-off date and in the interim will seek as much input as possible from affected fishers, both on the south coast and at Marmion.

Darryl Hockey
Chief Executive Officer
WA Fishing Industry Council