At Florida Sportsman, we come across lots of other people’s mail, especially when it’s relevant to fisheries matters and regulations. In this instance, the letter does not concern a Florida issue, or even a North American issue, but recreational fishermen statewide can relate just the same.
The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve off the coast of Australia is about to become the world’s largest marine reserve. That translates to no fishing at all within its boundaries. This region is a haven for billfish species, and for decades anglers have journeyed to Australia’s tropical north in pursuit of black marlin.
But the data sets don’t add up, and pressure to create the reserve is coming from extreme environmental groups, say opponents to the measure. Citing funded socio-economic research in numerous parts of the world with high densities of sportfishing activity—much like Australia –The Billfish Foundation has persuaded leaders of other nations of the benefits to support catch and release.
Ellen Peel, of The Billfish Foundation, asks that readers please insert your name at bottom of the letter below and forward to CoralSea@environment.gov.au.
Dear Tony Burke Minister of Australia’s Environment,
As an angler who practices primarily catch and release fishing for billfish and tunas, I want my comment to be received and considered in your deliberations to decide whether to increase the size of the Proposed Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and whether to prohibit recreational fishing. I am one angler; I’m not a member of WWF or PEW Environmental Group, who can generate thousands of comments. I want my one voice to help counter the tenacious campaign by the environmental organizations that are striving to convince you and other members of the Australian government to increase your proposed marine reserves so you would create the largest marine protected area in the world. I am a member of The Billfish Foundation (TBF), which is a science-based strong advocate for biodiversity, conservation and management of marine resources, but it understands that sportfishing is compatible with conservation; it is a form of sustainable use that also provides a strong economic engine to Australia and many other nations around the world. Angler access is important even for a predominantly catch and release fishery and restricting them from an area identified to protect coral reefs does not make sense.
Recently, Imogene Zethoven, Director of the Coral Sea Campaign of Pew Environmental Group’s Global Ocean Legacy project, emailed an urgent plea – It’s Now or Never – calling on individuals to send you comments in support of a “highly protected park” in the Coral Sea. Her plea notes that, thus far, Pew has secured in excess of 12,400 signers to their petition supporting an expansive closure, larger even than what the government of Australia is proposing. Pew’s plea states that this is the last chance to help create the largest marine protected area in the world. I am not an environmental machine and cannot generate such numbers, but I do spend money when I visit a nation to fish, I respect the ocean and all its resources and I encourage you to make the responsible choice of not expanding the proposed park and not prohibiting sportfishing.
As a conscientious angler, I support temporary closures during critical life stages, where some benefit will be derived by the resources and those dependent upon their presence. I think it unfortunate that often marine protected areas mean simply preservation and not conservation, sometimes serving as ineffective paper exercises that provide campaign material for environmental groups with large memberships. This month’s issue of Nature, Vol. 482, 9 February 2012 (a respected International Weekly Journal of Science) includes correspondence from two Australian scientists- Robert Kearney, University of Canberra and Graham Farebrother, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. Their correspondence states adopting a call by fellow scientist, Terry Hughes, at the James Cook University, to prohibit catch and release fishing in the effort to protect coral reefs by adding 480,000 kilometres to the closure in the Coral Sea “is an example of exaggerated restriction of fishing. We contend that sustainable fisheries need to be expanded, not restricted.” Hughes is the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland. Australia. (Click here to read the article.)
I and TBF call on you to exercise responsible management by not expanding the marine reserve and prohibiting sportfishing for billfish and tunas. Establishing the largest marine protected area in the world should not be your goal- it should be responsible management and conservation. I’m sharing this with my fishing friends and asking them to let you know through the above email address what they think about the environmental push to push everyone else out of the oceans.
Thank you for your consideration,
Concerned Fishermen Worldwide