From Mel Brown:
Mel Brown AM
Mel Brown AM
As the elected President of the Underwater Skindivers & Fisherman’s Association, I feel it is important to inform you of my concerns. Once again there is another campaign, “Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bio- Region” attempting to exclude fishers from our traditional grounds between the NSW Central Coast and Wollongong. The USFA is proud of its long and strong culture of conservation and co-operation, and as such, we are perplexed at how this lock out of fishers will achieve any of the objectives expected.
Our Association believes in the wise, ethical and sustainable use of our marine resources. We believe that this approach along with adaptive management practices is the preferred option rather than a failing protectionist one. The loss of access to key fishing locations is not conservation or management based, there will be little if any increase in overall abundance and there will be little increase from spill over or recruitment. There will also be increased effort in the remaining areas with the resulting decrease in bio mass and in catch. We would also expect an increase in conflict between the different stakeholder groups as we are forced into smaller areas. The safety aspect should also be of consideration, it is our fear that there would be an increase in risky behaviour and accidents, as fishers will be forced into taking greater risks. For the USFA, there is also the concern that divers will be forced into deeper waters as the proposed exclusions take a proportionally larger part of our access, which is water 20m or less in depth.
The basic principle of adaptive management is to monitor trends in abundance and react to this. The USFA is well aware of this, to the extent that we developed our own indices “The USFA Index” to record and measure these trends. As our effort and technology (breath hold, rubber powered guns, etc.) has seen little change in the last 60 plus years, the rigour of our “catch per unit of effort” is now the bench mark for monitoring fish trends. This is used by the CSIRO and also provides our association with an income. There is no other baseline for measuring the trends in fish abundance extending back for 50 years. The lockouts would in effect make these indices redundant and we all would lose this most rigorous monitoring method. This proposed exclusion is the inverse of good management and conservation.
Fishers have always been very compliant and we feel that the best way to achieve conservation and sustainable outcomes is not by exclusion, but inclusion. Our marine heritage is valuable and important to us, and as such we have a strong interest in protecting it. Why exclude us? We have accepted licencing, size and bag limits and a multitude of exclusions already, and will continue to do so. It would appear that these lockouts are not about conservation or sustainable use, but to suit the agendas of relatively small and vocal interests. Some stakeholders such as SCUBA, would effectively gain the exclusive use of this public resource. As fishers we are not seeking exclusive use, we are happy to share.
In closing Minister, I put it to you that the “Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bio-Region” proposal is the agenda of a few, not the majority of stakeholders. I would also like to make you aware of the cultural importance of these proposed sites to spearfisher’s, they include the location where 68 years ago spearfishing as a sport was founded in Australia. I ask you not to exclude those who wish to continue to use this resource wisely. Together we have the ability to manage this resource sustainably. Please don’t lock us out.
The NSW Government is inviting your comments on suggested management initiatives to enhance marine biodiversity in the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion. Please note that the consultation period has been extended until Sunday 8th May 2016.
The Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) has created a discussion paper where they describe eight suggested management initiatives in the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment. The USFA agrees with most of these Initiatives except for Initiative 4 - Spatial Management.
Spatial management is basically another name for Lockouts. The USFA is opposed to lockouts as we believe there are better management strategies than total lockouts.
The Assessment has identified 15 main sites and 44 additional sites. The implications are that as many of these sites as possible will be locked up for good. Continue reading The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment
15 April 2016
The Hon. Niall Blair MLC
Minister for Primary Industries
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
RE: DPI FISHERIES COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROTOCOLS.
Does the complaints’ handling policy on your website under the banner of NSW Trade and Investment apply to NSW DPI Fisheries staff?
On Monday 14th March 2016 at 7.30 am I sent by email correspondence to Mr Peter Gallagher, Programme Leader – Marine Protected Areas, an official complaint that a statement in one of the Hawkesbury Bioregion’s accompanying documents “Review of 15 Pre – identified Sites” was false – to wit
“Rationale for excluding spearfishing was based on research from the U.S.A. at the time of declaration (1982) which indicated that this fishing method makes fish less approachable by passive divers wanting to photograph or study them (DPI internal 1979)”.
A copy of this correspondence is enclosed. To this date I have not received an acknowledgement or response from Peter Gallagher.
Dot point 4 of the complaints handling policy requires all complaints to be acknowledged and complainants kept informed about the progress of the matter, particularly if delays occur.
This protocol has been ignored - Further under the section RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATION it names the Executive Director FISHERIES NSW and goes on to require “Branch head to ensure complaints are thoroughly investigated and reported on _ _ _ _ and the complainant advised of outcomes within one month.
Again this has not occurred.
Could you please advise on why my complaint has been treated with such appalling indifference by your fisheries department?
It is of importance to spearfishers that the injustice perpetrated by this snide and derogatory comment that unfairly stigmatizes this fishing activity is rectified.
Every day this claim continues in print compounds the damage.
Melven Brown AM
Monday, 14 March 2016
Mr. Peter Gallagher
Program Leader – Marine Protected Areas
Locked Bag 1
NELSON BAY NSW 2315
I am writing to lodge an official complaint re a statement in one of the Hawkesbury Bioregions accompanying documents “Review of 15 Pre – identified Sites”.
If you are not the appropriate person to deal with this complaint could you please advise ASAP.
On page 34 which deals with the North Harbour Reserve it justifies the lock – out of spearfishers with this statement “Rationale for excluding spearfishing was based on research from the U.S.A. at the time of declaration (1982) which indicated that this fishing method makes fish less approachable by passive divers wanting to photograph or study them (DPI internal 1979)”.
This statement is a little milder than that made in writing in correspondence from B. Lynch for G.H. Knowles Director General Department of Agriculture to George Davies (Federal Secretary of the Australian Underwater Federation) dated 29th October 1985 – “The rationale for excluding spearfishing from the North Harbour Reserve is based on studies conducted in the United States of America which has shown that spearfishing, as opposed to most other common methods of fishing, scares the fish to the extent that they are no longer readily approachable by divers wanting to photograph or study them”.
This statement was fraudulent and dishonest then and remains fraudulent, dishonest and misleading to this day.
On receiving a copy of the above correspondence I queried the validity of this statement in correspondence to George Davies dated 29th November 1985 as I had copies of all known spearfishing studies and immediately suspected this statement was false.
George Davies again wrote to the Director General (undated, copy received by me on 5/2/86) requesting a copy of this “study” to enable us to determine its relevance to Australian conditions.
Following a meeting of the Recreational Fishermen’s Advisory Council George Davies received a verbal apology from Dr. Peter Ayres, Director of Fisheries for “some sections of the previous letter (29/10/85” however this was never put in writing and no copy of the “study” was produced, prompting another written request.
George Davies wrote again on 17th June 1986 after finally receiving a copy of an article concerning spearfishing in the United States of America. He said in part “In referring to this particular letter (29/10/1985) I find the information therein extremely misleading and inaccurate”.
The “study” had turned out to be nothing more than an article published in the American magazine “Skin Diver” by Bill Barada concerning the neglect of the John Pennekamp State Park and voicing a personal opinion as to spearfishing by the author.
To construe this article as a “study” or having any scientific validity is quite simply reprehensible.
At this particular period of time spearfishing with Scuba was (and still is) extremely prevalent in the U.S.A., whilst spearfishers in NSW had been pro-active in ensuring Scuba spearfishing was prohibited thus providing a depth sanctuary, an initiative that has been extremely successful in conserving shallow water species.
These facts never received any consideration, nor was any expert advice sought from spearfishing representatives in NSW.
An underwater photographer’s biggest problem when photographing fish is the noise his Scuba makes, both on inhalation and exhalation. This is what scares Fish! And this is why professional photographers employ breath – hold diving techniques or use Re – breathers when taking fish photo’s.
The whole art of successful spearfishing is to be able to approach fish without scaring them. The argument that fish are so scared by spearfishing that they are not approachable by other divers is ridiculous and once more evidence of prejudicial treatment by the Department.
I have several times found it necessary to accuse NSW Fisheries of prejudice when dealing with spearfishing matters. This has always been denied but there is no clearer case of prejudice than what has occurred with the locking – out of spearfishers from the North Harbour reserve.
An opinion, judgement or evaluation conceived without proof or competent evidence, but based on what seems valid to one’s own mind.
To be frank I am thoroughly disgusted that after all the correspondence from us concerning this issue, a statement that was corrupt and malicious and injurious to our fishing method is still persisting.
My last correspondence on this issue was to the Manager, Protected Areas on 15th May 2001.
One of my greatest concerns with my many dealings with Fisheries over the years is their inability to be frank and honest and to admit to mistakes and rectify them. The same applies equally to governments (of all persuasions).
My writing to you is just the first step. I am quite prepared to take this as far as necessary to have this injustice rectified.
Could you please advise as a matter of urgency your department’s intentions regarding a resolution?
Melven Brown AM