In a move lauded by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), newly elected leadership in Australia’s government announced that it will repeal the management plans that proposed to close more than 500,000 square miles of marine waters to recreational fishing. Australia’s government will redraft management plans that established the world’s largest system of marine reserve parks.
“The global recreational fishing community should take a moment to appreciate this landmark move by the Australian government to correct the ill-conceived decision to close public waters to recreational fishing,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Australia’s efforts to establish a massive network of marine parks did not sufficiently recognize the social, economic and conservation benefits of recreational fishing, causing great concern to everyone involved in recreational fishing.”
For more than a decade, ASA has taken a lead role in marine protected area (MPA) issues, including the Marine Life Protection Act process in California which closed much of the state’s prime coastal waters to recreational fishing. MPAs encompass a variety of area-based marine management approaches whereby some or all human activities are restricted. A subset of MPAs called marine reserves or no-take zones, ban all activities that may be considered extractive, including recreational fishing.
“Through many frustrating years working to ensure anglers and the recreational fishing industry had a voice in California’s process to establish an unwarranted network of closures to prime sportfishing waters, it’s heartening to see a government recognize the value of maintaining public access to marine waters,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director. “Marine reserves are the most restrictive tool in the fisheries management toolbox, but far too often they are proposed as one-size-fits-all management. Conservation-minded anglers are wrongly penalized for problems that either don’t exist or for which they are not responsible.”
Where traditional fisheries management tools, such as seasons and bag limits, are effectively sustaining healthy fish populations, the value of marine reserves is very limited. By prohibiting recreational fishing access, particularly in popular fishing areas, marine reserves negatively affect jobs and coastal communities that depend on revenue derived from recreational fishing and boating.
“Australia is one of the world’s leaders in marine fisheries management, producing healthy and sustainable fisheries,” noted Nussman. “The decision to maintain recreational saltwater fishing access acknowledges the reality that recreational fishing and fisheries conservation are compatible. We applaud the Australian government for its actions, and hope this serves as a positive precedent for other government agencies to correct unnecessary closures in public waters.”