Most recreational fishers in Australia support marine sanctuaries


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Recreational fishers adjacent to an established marine park in NSW.
Author provided

Matt Navarro, University of Western Australia; Marit E. Kragt, and Tim Langlois, University of Western Australia

More than 70% of recreational fishers support no-take marine sanctuaries according to our research, published recently in Marine Policy.

This study contradicts the popular perception that fishers are against establishing no-take marine reserves to protect marine life. In fact, the vast majority of fishers we surveyed agreed that no-take sanctuaries improve marine environmental values, and do not impair their fishing.




Read more:
More than 1,200 scientists urge rethink on Australia’s marine park plans


No-take marine sanctuaries, which ban taking or disturbing any marine life, are widely recognised as vital for conservation. However, recent media coverage and policy decisions in Australia suggest recreational fishers are opposed to no-take sanctuary zones created within marine parks.

This perceived opposition has been reinforced by recreational fishing interest groups who aim to represent fishers’ opinions in policy decisions. However, it was unclear whether the opinions expressed by these groups matches those of fishers on-the-ground in established marine parks.

To answer this, we visited ten state-managed marine parks across Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. We spoke to 778 fishers at boat ramps that were launching or retrieving their boats to investigate their attitudes towards no-take sanctuary zones.

Our findings debunk the myth that recreational fishers oppose marine sanctuaries. We found 72% of active recreational fishers in established marine parks (more than 10 years old) support their no-take marine sanctuaries. Only 9% were opposed, and the remainder were neutral.

We also found that support rapidly increases (and opposition rapidly decreases) after no-take marine sanctuaries are established, suggesting that once fishers have a chance to experience sanctuaries, they come to support them.

Recreational fishers support for marine sanctuaries increases with marine park age.

Fishers in established marine parks were also overwhelmingly positive towards marine sanctuaries. Most thought no-take marine sanctuaries benefited the marine environment (78%) and have no negative impacts on their fishing (73%).

We argue that recreational fishers, much like other Australians, support no-take marine sanctuaries because of the perceived environmental benefits they provide. This is perhaps not surprising, considering that appreciating nature is one of the primary reasons many people go fishing in the first place.

Exploring marine life within an established marine park.
Tim Langlois

In the past opposition from recreational fishing groups has been cited in the decision to scrap proposed no-take sanctuaries around Sydney, to open up established no-take sanctuaries to fishing and to reduce sanctuaries within the Australia Marine Parks (formerly the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network).

Our findings suggest that these policy decisions do not reflect the beliefs of the wider recreational fishing community, but instead represent the loud voices of a minority.

We suggest that recreational fishing groups and policy makers should survey grass roots recreational fishing communities (and other people who use marine parks) to gauge the true level of support for no-take marine sanctuaries, before any decisions are made.




Read more:
The backflip over Sydney’s marine park is a defiance of science


Despite what headlines may say, no-take marine sanctuaries are unlikely to face long lasting opposition from recreational fishers. Instead, our research suggests no-take marine sanctuaries provide a win-win: protecting marine life whilst fostering long term support within the recreational fishing community.The Conversation

Matt Navarro, Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Western Australia; Marit E. Kragt, Senior Lecture in Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Tim Langlois, Research Fellow, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The backflip over Sydney’s marine park is a defiance of science



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Sydney’s iconic beaches are not yet part of a marine park.
John Turnbull

David Booth, University of Technology Sydney and John Turnbull, UNSW

The New South Wales government’s decision to back away from establishing no-fishing zones in waters around Sydney leaves significant question marks over the plan, which is open for public consultation until September 27.

Fisheries Minister Niall Blair explained the apparent backflip by saying he was “confident that fishing is not the key threat to the sustainability of our marine environment”, after receiving what he described as “robust” feedback from local communities and anglers.

The original plans for Sydney’s marine park. Click image to enlarge.
NSW government

The originally proposed Sydney Marine Park comprised 17 “sanctuary zones” (totalling 2.4% of the area, including estuaries), 3 “conservation zones” totalling 2.6%, and 21 “special purpose zones”, which would allow (and in some cases protect) fishing.

Sanctuary zones allow no fishing; conservation zones allow taking of lobster and abalone (see below); and special purpose zones have a range of restrictions or allowances, not necessarily of any conservation benefit. For instance, four offshore artificial reefs are classed as special purpose zones.

The plans cover the waters around Sydney, stretching from Newcastle in the north to Wollongong in the south. Formally known as the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, it is the only bioregion wholly in NSW that does not have a marine park. This is despite Sydney’s magnificent array of underwater and coastal habitats, which are home to more fish species than the entire British Isles.




Read more:
Recreational fishing in marine parks: you can’t be serious!


New zones and ranked threats

The original marine park proposal was far from ideal. A good marine park should have a string of closely connected sanctuary zones, but there was a large gap from southern Sydney to Wollongong where no sanctuary zones were proposed.

Instead, there was a new “conservation zone” to allow fishing for lobster and abalone. Yet lobster in particular are important to this ecosystem, because they protect kelp by preying on sea urchins.

Threats to the marine region around Sydney, as ranked in a NSW government report. Click image to enlarge.
NSW government

The NSW government based its earlier proposal on a principle called TARA, short for “threat and risk assessment”, in which all perceived factors are ranked according to their environmental, social and economic outcomes.

While other major threats such as climate change and pollution are ranked highly, fishing doesn’t appear until number 18 on the government’s list (see page 8 here. One reason for this is that fishing is split into eight categories (such as “recreational fishing by boat – line and trap”), masking its overall impact. Even 4WDs on beaches are ranked as a greater threat to the environment than many types of fishing.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s press release about the marine park public consultation didn’t mention the environmental threat posed by fishing at all. Yet there is clear evidence that fishing directly harms fish stocks.

One recent study shows that stocks of inshore fish species have declined in Australia by 30% in a decade, except in sanctuary zones. Worldwide, sanctuary zones (also called no-take zones) have been shown to help fish grow larger and more abundant. And recent studies in NSW coastal waters have reiterated the benefits of no-take zones for species such as morwong, bream, and snapper.

Partial protection doesn’t work

The latest proposals, which would allow recreational but not commercial fishing, would be much less effective than full protection. One recent study suggested that partial protection is no better than no protection at all.

According to a NSW government estimate, recreational fishing removes more than 3 million fish, crustaceans and molluscs from NSW coastal waters every year. But marine parks are primarily about conservation, and this requires us to face some stark realities. With more than 8 million people likely to call Sydney home in the next 40 years, pressures on our coasts will only increase.

Sanctuary zones are one of the best available conservation tools to guard against these impacts. These zones have also been shown to make wildlife more resilient to climate change.

Even before the government’s decision to rescind the proposed sanctuary zones, the original plan for no-take zones to cover just 2.4% of the region was a severe compromise. By comparison, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has 30% sanctuary zone coverage, and the rest of NSW has 7-8%. International best practice recommends at least 20%, and even the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Management Plan offers 6% no-take coverage.

But now, with no sanctuary zones, Sydney’s proposed “marine park” is not worthy of the name.

Wrong priorities

A peculiar contradiction is that despite one-quarter of the listed threats being fishing-related, the NSW government’s marine estate management strategy includes an initiative to encourage fishing. Pollution is also a high-priority threat, and fishing is the largest source of subtidal debris.

Kelp and a tangle of discarded fishing line.
John Turnbull

If local-level threats such as fishing and litter are not dealt with, resilience to climate change suffers as a result. We must tackle all threats – overfishing, pollution, climate change – and not shy away from one because it’s politically unpalatable.




Read more:
Marine parks for fish and people: here’s how to do it


It is frustrating that the NSW government has opted to abolish these marine sanctuaries before the public consultation was complete. The wider public understands the value of sanctuary zones, as indicated in recent opinion polls showing clear support for the original plans among Sydneysiders – even many of those who fish.

Some fishers are now calling for sanctuary zones to be scrapped or wound back in other iconic NSW marine parks, such as Lord Howe Island and Solitary Islands. This move would be a defiance of the science. The evidence shows that sanctuary zones are essential for restoring and preserving our marine estate for future generations.The Conversation

David Booth, Professor of Marine Ecology, University of Technology Sydney and John Turnbull, , UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why are talks over an East Antarctic marine park still deadlocked?



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An Antarctic icebreaker sails past a penguin. But conservationists are still waiting for their own breakthrough.
John B. Weller, Author provided

Cassandra Brooks, University of Colorado

Last week, representatives from 24 countries plus the European Union met in Hobart to discuss plans for a vast marine protected area (MPA) off the coast of East Antarctica.

The proposed area, spanning almost 1 million square km, is crucial for a vast array of marine life. Scientists, conservationists and governments have been pushing for the protection of this area for upwards of seven years.

Why, then, has the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed to deliver, despite having agreed similar protections for other areas of the Southern Ocean?

Competing national incentives among member states, and complex international relations extending far beyond the negotiations themselves, have stymied consensus as states negotiate power and fishing access in this icy commons at the bottom of the world.


Read more: Why Antarctica depends on Australia and China’s alliance


CCAMLR committed to establishing a network of marine parks in the Southern Ocean in 2002 and has enjoyed success. In 2009 it established the world’s first international MPA, covering 94,000 square km south of the South Orkney Islands. Then, in 2016, the Commission made headlines when it successfully negotiated the world’s largest marine park, covering 1.55 million square km in the Ross Sea.

This raised hopes for a similar breakthrough for East Antarctica at this year’s meeting. But those hopes were put on hold for another year.

Vast protections

According to plans first proposed to CCAMLR in 2012 by Australia, France and the EU, the East Antarctic marine park was designed as a representative system of seven marine protected areas, covering 1.8 million square km that would capture key ecosystem processes.

By 2017 the seven zones had been scaled back to three, covering just under 1 million square km – largely to accommodate some member states’ economic interests and political concerns.

CCAMLR current MPAs in the South Orkney Islands (adopted in 2009) and Ross Sea (adopted in 2016) and proposed MPA off the East Antarctic. Original 2012 East Antarctic MPA proposal shown in light purple and current 2017 proposal in dark purple. Figure modified after Brooks et al. 2016.

Coming into 2017, proponents had worked to strengthen the East Antarctic MPA proposal, achieving the support of all states except Russia and China.

This obstruction is not novel. These two states have been the most vocal opponents of MPAs throughout the history of the negotiations, citing a variety of concerns including fishing interests, sufficiency of science, conservation need, and political accusations.

Fishing interests

Fishing interests have been a crucial factor in the negotiations, not just for China and Russia but also for the bulk of fishing states, which make up the majority of the Commission.

One of the reasons the South Orkney Islands reserve was adopted swiftly in 2009 was because it did not interfere with current or future fishing interests. Following this precedent, the Ross Sea marine reserve was designed largely around the lucrative fishing grounds for toothfish, and China only agreed to the plans after a krill-fishing zone was added in 2015 – despite the fact that neither China nor any other member state currently fishes for krill in the Ross Sea.

Small toothfish fisheries are scattered throughout the East Antarctic, including within the proposed MPA. However, this proposal has a multiple-use design, and none of the areas are explicitly closed to fishing. Yet some of Russia’s and China’s opposition concerned potential limitations to fishing. Why?

As a commons where sovereignty is suspended under the Antarctic Treaty, the Southern Ocean continues to be a contested space. Fishing can be used as a means to occupy space in this global commons, meeting geopolitical as well economic goals by asserting power and securing future access.

In recent years China has used the debate over MPAs to challenge the intentions of the very CCAMLR Convention as one inherently offering members a right to fish rather than a responsibility to conserve. A new Chinese krill fishing effort in the East Antarctic that initiated last year may be worth more in terms of geopolitics than it is in terms of money.

Finding opportunities to break the deadlock

How can the deadlock be broken? Perhaps negotiators can learn from the success of the Ross Sea marine park plan where high-level diplomacy created a political window of opportunity. China’s support was secured in 2015, after presidential-level bilateral meetings with the United States.


Read more: How China came in from the cold to help set up Antarctica’s vast new marine park


That left Russia as the only nation not to support the plan – a bad look, given that it was preparing to chair the 2016 meeting, and President Vladimir Putin had declared 2017 a special Year of Ecology. Russia had the opportunity and incentives to demonstrate leadership.

But also importantly, the US Secretary of State John Kerry was personally invested in the outcome, and throughout 2016 he had been liaising with his counterparts in Russia. Pressure was building both inside and outside the meeting room. After securing concessions to increase the amount of toothfish fishing in certain zones, Russia eventually approved the plans.

The process of building consensus for adopting CCAMLR MPAs, with particular focus on the Ross Sea MPA during the 2013–2016 time period. Figure modified after Brooks 2017.

In managing one of the great oceanic commons, despite political plays, CCAMLR has demonstrated leadership in adopting marine protected areas. The Southern Ocean now harbours the world’s largest marine park in the Ross Sea. Despite the latest setback a proposal for the East Antarctic remains on the table as well as plans for other marine parks in the Weddell Sea and off the Antarctic Peninsula.

The ConversationSecuring international agreements takes patience and it is often unclear in the moment how a political window of opportunity opens. It may still take some time to align national incentives and generate international diplomacy for the East Antarctic MPA and the others to come. The Commission’s 25 members ultimately need to find the political will to see it through.

Cassandra Brooks, Assistant Professor Environmental Studies, University of Colorado

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How China came in from the cold to help set up Antarctica’s vast new marine park


Nengye Liu, University of New England

Conservationists have been celebrating the creation of the world’s largest marine park, covering 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea off Antarctica.

The agreement, brokered at last week’s annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, will enter into force on December 1, 2017 – thanks in large part to China ending its resistance to the proposal.

For the next 35 years, fishing will be totally banned in a “no-take zone” covering 1.12 million square kilometres (72%) of the marine park, with exceptions for krill and toothfish in specially designated research zones.

The marine park’s creation follows years of often frustrating negotiations. The United States and New Zealand brought the idea to the 2012 CCAMLR meeting, but were met with concerns, particularly from Russia and China.

At the 2014 meeting, China set out the reasons for its opposition. Its delegates argued that the term “conservation” should balance protection and rational use of marine living resources; that marine parks should not be set up in the Southern Ocean without convincing data showing they will work; and that the CCAMLR has already adopted a wide range of successful conservation measures in the seas around Antarctica.

A year later, China once again looked set to block the issue, posing a series of questions about the proposed marine park. How could marine parks allow rational use of marine living resources? How could they facilitate scientific research? How would they be monitored and regulated, and how long would the protections last?

Nevertheless, China surprisingly supported the Ross Sea proposal at the end of the 2015 CCAMLR meeting, paving the way for this month’s decision.

Why the turnaround from China’s previous opposition? And what does this mean for its growing and changing influence on Antarctic diplomacy?

Global influence

There are three key reasons that explain China’s shifting position. First, China is a latecomer to the current global ocean governance regime. When the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959, China was still relatively isolated from the international community. It was not until 1978 that it opened its doors to the world and engaged with the current international legal system, and as such it had little influence on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It has taken time for China to develop the necessary diplomatic and scientific expertise to become comfortable in this space. As a historic rule-taker rather than rule-maker, its government may need to overcome a natural mistrust of many existing regimes.

This issue is not unique to marine parks. Such hesitation was also evident when China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and when it started engaging with UN climate change negotiations in 1994. But China now uses the WTO dispute settlement body as frequently as other members, and ratified the Paris climate agreement at September’s G20 summit which it hosted for the first time – another sign of its increasing diplomatic engagement.

Second, China became a party of the CCAMLR in 2007. As the world’s second-largest economy and largest fishing nation, China has global fishing interests, including off Antarctica. Chinese Krill fishing in Antarctica has grown significantly since 2009, reaching 54,300 tonnes in 2014. This partly explains China’s concerns over proposed no-take zones.

There is, however, a deeper philosophical concern, which might be described as “anxiousness for commons”. While China’s Antarctic fishing interests account for only a very small share of its global catch, they are highly symbolic because Antarctic fishing showcases China’s quest for freedom in the “global commons”.

Third, the international community is currently developing a new global ocean governance regime. By coincidence, negotiations on the regulation of fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean and other international areas of the high seas have been going on at the same time as the discussions about the Ross Sea. In the Northeast Atlantic, the OSPAR has already established a network of high sea marine parks.

As a rising power, China would not be happy to face constraints or bans on its activities at a time when its rising status gives it access to places like the high seas, the ocean floor, the poles, and outer space. It would be a shame if China were to remain silent on those issues, and it probably won’t – China’s 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20) clearly says the nation would like to take a more active role in global ocean governance.

In the foreseeable future, we could possibly see China become more comfortable and active within the CCAMLR as well as the Antarctic Treaty System. Although generally being supportive, China would not keep silent. Rather, it would speak up more openly for its Antarctic interests, and have more intensive engagement with the Antarctic Treaty System.

One challenge for China would be how to enhance its capacity and expertise so as to provide high-quality proposals, which could not only pursue its own interests, but as an important global player, also help to make a concrete contribution to achieving sustainability in the Southern Ocean.

The Conversation

Nengye Liu, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New England

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Western Australia: Kimberley – Horizontal Falls Protected


The link below is to an article reporting on new marine parks and a national park recently announced for Western Australia, that will help protect Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley.

For more visit:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-28/national-park-created-to-protect-horizontal-falls/4487354

Article: Australia Creates World’s Largest Marine Reserve Network


The link below is to another article covering Australia’s plan to protect large areas of our coastline with a Marine Park network.

For more visit:
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/06/australia-creates-worlds-largest-marine-reserve-network/