Aussies Make Good Reverse Play

The very good but unheralded news out there is that the fishing world has some- how dodged a no-fishing bullet of possibly immense consequences.

We can all let out a collective “Whew!”

The great Aussie lockout is over (we think).

Thanks to a series of political flipflops, a large majority of Australia’s recreational fishing areas will remain open to angling as they always were until a powerful minority of anti-fishing extremists succeeded in ordering most of the nation’s inshore waters closed indefinitely.

It took action by elected officials to finally stop the no-touch frenzy that started a decade ago when a tight group of fisheries bureaucrats waved danger flags claiming that fish populations were being wiped out by all kinds of fishing. That their evidence was skimpy at best would have to come out later as angling groups and legislators demanded real data. The no-fishing brigade had gotten away with saying the zones were simply necessary to protect marine life from “population growth, climate change and demand for resources.” Lots of citizens, understandably, bought into the campaign when answering loaded questions. Do you believe in saving marine life?

Fortunately, though belatedly, the fishing public rebelled and noted that fisheries managers had made little effort to control commercial overfishing, nor had they established effective size and bag limits for personal-use takings. Dam- ages from a total closure would be catastrophic, it was shown. The Yorke Peninsula alone was found to have 43 per cent of its visitors there for the fishing.

The Florida-based International Game Fish Association became a leader in opposing the no-fishing zones with a “Keep Australia Fishing” effort, warning that the no-touch- zone promoters will keep spreading their all-or-nothing line.

Indeed, the lockouts have blossomed in California, and talk for more of them continues in parts of Florida.

Poor fish management is the sure result as officials refuse to identify and quantify the best use of the resource and re-allocate fish accordingly, all on a sustainable, renewable basis.

Still, there have been some historic breakthroughs, such as gill net bans, de-commercializing of certain species, and conservative limits on everyone.

Meantime, let’s salute those Down Under officials who managed to stop their own strange combination of fanaticism and self-seeking over exploiters.

May the Aussies, and people everywhere, keep fishing, responsibly.

Karl Wickstrom