USFA Presidents letter – USFA concerns regarding Hawkesbury Marine bio-region

Dear Minister

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.

Yours sincerely
Peter Saunders
President USFA

The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment

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.

USFA's Matthew Poulton answers some questions on what the  Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion assessment created by the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) means for spear fishers in NSW, Sydney, Newcastle & Wollongong.
The USFA’s Issues with the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment
http://usfa.org.au/usfas-issues-hawkesbury-shelf-marine-bioregion-assessment/
A better picture showing the expanse of the region under assessment
The Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion under assessment

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

Letter to Minister for Primary Industries re: Complaints Handling Protocols by DPI

15 April 2016

The Hon. Niall Blair MLC
Minister for Primary Industries
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001

Dear Minister

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.

Yours Sincerely
Melven Brown AM

Far South Coast Championships 2016

The week leading up to the comp saw perfect diving conditions flat calm crystal clear warm water. Wazza took full advantage of these conditions leading up to the comp doing a lot of home work and having a serious game plan for the day , Ellis for boaty and list of spots as long as your arm. It certainly paid off, finishing a country mile ahead of some serious competition . The St George boys took out the next 3 spots ( Merv must be smiling as he looks down )
Then a well deserved 6th to Troy fishing with 5 up in the "Haines" then Oly who has won this comp more then any one else And Pete Baker just edging Joe Out. Good to see the captain win. Joey placed 10 th and won the intermediates, Conner Elliot had a blinder finishing 11th out right and winning the Juniors convincingly, followed by Zeb and Darcy in 3rd . Christian won the Sub Juniors and Zac Merlo on his first ever comp, runner up Sub Junior. Living up to the Merlo family tradition. And almost forgot Eddy won the Grand masters again beating Ben Allan by a few fish scales. Thats a fair range of age, from 13 to 70 all competing on the day.

There was over 40 people sign on and all weighed in . There would have been a few more but the weather forecast was bit "how you going" so we lost a few who pulled the plug and cancelled. Sorry you missed out on a great weekend guys. But that's what comp diving is about, diving the conditions on the day. The comp was well run , there was plenty of BBQ chicken to eat , and great prizes to be won , I was wrapped , won a wet suit that's perfect for the youngest son. Special thanks to Lee Dalli for doing a run down at the last minute with some great prizes from Adreno. Lee deserves a special mention for all the work he puts in with no fuss or carry on , Thanks Lee. Ray Powell DiveR Australia donated a pair of the worlds greatest Fins DiverR , this time won by Conner Elliot for a thumper of a Boar fish and for such a good overall performance.
Roy from Agro-dive supplied at lot of great prizes and a special thank you to Adreno for there donated prizes. And thanks to Joey Conner for doing the scores a job well done. For two young guys there do so much work. Great stuff.

FSCC Results 2016

Due to the current weather forecast for strong winds the Far South Championships has been changed to be held on the Sunday 24th April. Same location being the Narooma boat ramp for 7.00am sign-on
The forecast looks better for the Sunday with little wind and a reduced swell.FSCC 2016 Flyer

Snorkel described as lethal in Australian Parliament

Ping Pong Ball Snorkle
Ping Pong Ball Snorkel

Dr M. H. Cass (ALP VIC) told Federal Parliament in March that an underwater snorkel on sale in Australia was lethal.

He asked the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, to investigate the sale of the snorkel.

Mr Gorton agreed to make the inquiries.

The snorkel was described by Dr Cass as a long, underwater breathing snorkel with Ping-Pong valves.

He said that an 8 year old boy had drowned in three feet of water while using the snorkel.

From: The Fisherman Winter, 1970 pg. 21.