Australian Anglers Association, (WA Division) Inc.

Meeting with Hon. Kim Chance, Minister for Fisheries.

On 26 September 2001, John Curtis, Immediate Past President, Australian Anglers Association, WA Division, Max Law, Secretary AAA, Angus Horwood, and Terry Fuller, representing George Holman, Senior Vice President AAA, had a meeting with the Minister for Fisheries, Hon Kim Chance to discuss several recreational fishing issues. Kevin Donohue, the Minister's Policy Officer, Fisheries, also attended.

Max Law outlined the composition and recent history of Australian Anglers Association, WA Division, including the number of clubs and members represented by AAA.

West Coast and Gascoyne Recreational Fishing Proposals. The Minister advised that there will be an updated release of the West Coast and Gascoyne Recreational Fishing proposals. These will not repeat all the details contained in the original documents, but will take the form of new, brief, specific and concise documents containing:-

1) the final recommendations put to the Minister by the Working Groups, and
2) the Minister's comments on those recommendations, not all of which will be in agreement with the Working Group's final recommendations.

These recommendations and comments from the Minister will be put out for public comments for a period of about eight weeks, with the public's comments will go to the Minister and not to the Working Group. The Minister will then consider the comments and make a final decision.

A press release will be issued within about one month so that the wider community is made aware of this action, and can make comments. Printed copies will be supplied, and details will be also available on the web site.

These answered some of the issues which AAA had wanted to raise - the lack of feedback on West Coast and Gascoyne and the secrecy about the updated proposals.

Representation on Management Committees. AAA is concerned at the apparent imbalance of representation by recreational fishers on some of the many Management Plan Committees, and the resulting proposals which aren't equitable, and which have, in AAA's perception, an unbalance against Recreational fishing. This includes RFACs of all kinds, West Coast Working Group, the Jurien Bay Marine Park, the Gascoyne Committee, Management Advisory Committees of all sorts, most recently the Mackeral MAC. The Minister acknowledged this point, and said that lessons had been learnt from the public reactions to these plans.

The Minister explained the need to take some early action on mackeral catches in advance of the outcomes of the Integrated Fisheries Management decisions. AAA had earlier made a representation that a particular person on the committee could not actually represent recreational fishers. The Minister accepted this and had changed the group that person represented, and now acknowledged that as a result of this change recreational fishers were now not represented on this committee.

Proposed Jurien Bay Marine Park. John Curtis explained, as an example of AAA concerns at the outcomes and apparent lack of recognition of the realities of recreational fishing in this area, how the proposals would prevent shore fishing at one of the few good spots in one stretch of beach, Target Rock. He also covered the inequity in the 21% area proposed to be unavailable to recreational fishers, compared to the very small 4% area unavailable to professional rock lobster catches. Angus Horwood explained how he had suggested changes in the proposals for the North Head area, for similar reasons, which had been accepted.

The Minister for Environment controls this Committee, but the Minister for Fisheries has to agree with the proposals. The Minister advised he does not agree with all the proposals for several reasons, including that the costs of compliance would be unworkable. He was aware of the drive by the rock lobster industry in these proposals. He believes it will not progress in it's present proposed form. Whatever is done has to make sense, in everyone's interests. He would welcome submissions from AAA and any others with detailed comments on the proposals as published, and suggestions for changes, supported by reasons.

Management of Total Catch of Fish. AAA is concerned that proposed changes to Recreational bag and possession limits are not matched by any effective controls on professional catches. Although professional boat and license numbers are controlled, there is no effective control on how much fish is actually caught by professional fishers, for the great majority of species of interest to recreational fishers. The catches are often controlled by other influences such as weather, abundance of fish, time available to fish, etc. AAA is concerned that increased abundance of fish if recreational catches are reduced, could simply result in increased professional catches.

The Minister advised that he is committed to resource sharing. A critical issue was the outcome of the Justice Toohey committee on Integrated Fisheries Management. He expected that resolving all the issues would take two terms of government (eight years), with the most difficult and controversial decisions having to be taken in the early period. The report of the Toohey committee is not due until July 2002, so it is difficult for the Government to make decisions before then.

At present most controls on professional catches were "input" controls, that is restrictions on the number of boats and licenses, times, etc., which had some effect on total catches, but these could still vary a lot, so "input" controls were not necessarily effective. Choices would need to be made which could include "output" controls, that is limiting the catch by weight or quantity. This is already done for the pilchard fishery this year.

Tuna and Billfish Catches. AAA raised the professional catches of these species, which are important for tourism, and commented on the recent Fremantle meeting run by the Federal Minister, Wilson Tuckey. Mr Chance explained that most of this problem was a result of Federal Government arrangements. A Commonwealth trawl license allowed the operator to fish anywhere for any species, including in locations/fisheries where WA controlled fishing access. The Minister restated his position, covered in a media release, that it would be better to add the poorly managed 10% federal component of fisheries in WA waters to the well managed 90% WA component, rather than the other way, as proposed by Minister Tuckey.

Assessment of Fish Stocks. AAA is concerned at the lack of assessment of stocks for most fish species which are of interest to recreational fishers. This assessment is needed to allow a balance of take between the recreational and professionals, and so that the professional take can also be managed to be sustainable. On 25 September, the day before this meeting, the Minister made a media statement on Fisheries Research, which said in part:-

"Work will start on a new fisheries research and community education centre at Hillarys Boat Harbour, following a $15 million boost to the Department of Fisheries capital program through this year's State Budget. The capital allocation, to be spread over four years, was designed to meet the State's needs for fisheries research and education over the next 20 to 30 years.

"The Government's recognition of the need to conserve fish stocks for future generations and to develop and maintain ecologically sustainable fisheries is reflected in this allocation," he said. "Without valid scientific research carried out by highly skilled people, Western Australia could pay a terrible penalty, such as the over-exploitation of important species. Our fisheries researchers need to be supported in their work to carry out the tough balancing act between conserving fish stocks for the future while allowing for their optimum current use."

Communication with AAA. AAA is concerned at the lack of communication from these Working Groups with AAA, which is the largest group with real recreational fishing experience and expertise to draw upon. AAA does not get feedback on the comments and suggestions it supplied, and has great difficulty in getting any information on the latest proposals.

AAA contrasted that with the recognition apparently given to Recfishwest's comments and inputs to these Committees and proposals, and the access Recfishwest apparently has to updated proposals. AAA acknowledged that Recfishwest does a lot of very good work for many aspects of recreational fishing, however AAA expressed concern at the representation of the general public (non club members) in the issues covered by the various management plans.

Recfishwest claims to represent WA's 600,000 odd recreational fishers, but the AAA does not see much evidence that the general recreational fishing public is actually being consulted on these issues. Recfishwest public membership is small, (believed to be less than 100). The Minister agreed with these comments.

AAA raised the issue of funding, explaining how previous arrangements, which were supposed to flow through the new organisational arrangements, were not actually working as expected. The Minister will look at the funding situation.

AAA explained that the representation of AAA on Recfishwest had some difficulties in the past, but added that recent approaches have been made to Recfishwest, and some of the issues between AAA and Recfishwest are now fixed or are being fixed.

What will be achieved by proposed changes. AAA suggested that some changes to bag limits may not actually achieve what they are expected to achieve, and may actually have other impacts. AAA gave data on dhufish captures, where the proposed reduced bag limit will not actually have any significant effect on total catches, but may affect recreational fishers perceptions and enjoyment through limiting that rare, once in several years lucky day when the catch is above the average. The cost of fuel, travel, etc for recreational fishing has increased recently. AAA is concerned that limiting recreational fish captures and changing bag limits will have an impact on people's willingness to travel to go fishing, or on the amount of fishing they do, and thus have an impact on tourism, and on the economy of many places where recreational fishing is popular. The Minister accepted these comments.

AAA is not against change, where data shows this to be needed for the good of the fish stocks. We realise that there is a shortage of data in many areas, and that the best available data must be used. We asked that the interpretation put on the data be reasonable and that sacrifices, if there are to be any, be shared equitably.

AAA offered our assistance in any way that we can help with these processes.

At the end of the meeting, the Minister said that he had found the meeting very useful and thanked us for our comments, and that he looked forward to further meetings with AAA.

Note:- Since these notes were prepared in September, meetings have been held with Recfishwest, and some issues such representation by AAA on the Recfishwest Board have been discussed and new arrangements will apply from early 2002.

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This page last updated 6 February 2002.