Sutherland Shire Council Meeting – Mayor’s Motion regarding boundaries for Spearfishing

Monday February 19th

Sutherland Shire Council Meeting – Mayor’s Motion regarding boundaries for Spearfishing – Shelly Beach to Bass and Flinders Point. Creating a new Aquatic Reserve therefore increasing the spearfishing exclusion boundaries.  USFA protested peacefully against these Mayoral motions and offered solutions.

USFA Members hold your heads up high!

Last night’s Sutherland Shire council meeting saw an overwhelming number of recreational fishers attending to offer solutions to be able to share the marine resource rather than have spearfishers excluded losing safe access to more of our treasured shallow water hunting grounds.

Every single fishing representative in attendance, close to 150 rec fishers showed class and dignity and gave respect to others of the public, showing the Council the quality of people involved in recreational fishing. Council staff mentioning they had not seen such numbers in attendance at any Council meeting previously.             

The Crux of the matter: A protected specie – the Blue Groper was speared, by an unlicensed fisher new to the country, therefore due to the actions of one person fishers are to lose territory.

Julian, Hon. Mark Banasiak MLC, Alex Bellisimo, Simon Trippe USFA President

Our Association and its members boast many generations of experience dealing with issues relating to sharing the spatial areas that we use with other stakeholders and this again came to the fore as the talks given by David McGowan (Pt Hacking Penguins) and Charl deVilliers (St George Dragons President) were on point. 

Dave McGowan

David mentioning the benefits of the ocean for our health and well-being “the ocean is the antidote to modern life”; David expressing that we could flip this problem to an opportunity to solve this together, “as changes to the rules wont change behaviour… yet an engaged community from all sides with guidance and leadership from governing bodies could lead to great things for the marine environment further benefitting the community… Do we turn our backs on each other, close the door and lock it down, or do we open for community collaboration and positive change?

Charl pointing out that the La Perouse aboriginal land council had not been consulted. Charl expressed there were 40 000 rec fishers in the Shire; he queried the lack of good, respectful and collaborative approach liaising with the community to solve the problems, and finally he asked Council to stop special interest groups who request exclusive access to the public domain.

Note, the USFA, and its speakers representing tonight absolutely condemns the taking of Blue Groper by spear. Spearfishers are not at fault here.

We suggest to the Minister, her Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, and the Sutherland Shire Council the following:

Education: The USFA would like to be involved with the Department to assist concerned locals in communities, and recreational fishers on the fishing regulations, and to promote spearfishing in its best light where people are realising the huge positive impact it has on fitness, well-being and mental health. An open day at Oak Park promoted by governing bodies assisted by USFA local members would be a great start to this ongoing education.  Too, encouraging local dive and tackle stores to promote awareness of the Blue Groper.

Science:  That there needs to be an index of abundance on Blue Groper. The species have been in an eruptive phase for several decades and it would be worth looking to see if they are a threatening process to other species due to their inter-specific hyper dominant nature, and their sheer biomass. You would look to adaptive management based upon the science and monitoring.  The USFA would be happy to assist with this research.

The Mayor and Councillors were impressed by the spearfishers and had good discussion and decided to make amendments to forward on to the Minister. Council looks forward to positive collaboration with community stakeholders and USFA in the ongoing education of people in the benefits of spearfishing and those coming into their community enjoying the wonderful Marine environment the Shire offers.

Thanks must go to the Hon. Mark Banasiak MLC and his amazing team from the SFF Party, Mark you have always stood by the spearo, thank you so much; the amazing crew at St George and Sutherland Shire Anglers Club who turned in in great numbers; various members of the Stop the Lockout Alliance with their banners; the Spearfishing clubs, our tribe! Port Hacking Penguins, St George Dragons, Sans Souci Dolphins, North Shore Sea Hawks (at least 7 members from the Northern beaches came to support!) plus, legends like Alex Bellismo; the Wild Foodmeister; Fergo’s Tackleworld staff, cheers Johnny and team! Adreno Legends – thanks Craig Seadog for being there too, and lastly Danil Hike, Nick Tang, Melven Brown AO, and Bob McComb, what a think tank and awesome action group you guys were with the countless days combined you spent on this with Charlie and David, thank you all so much.

You all came, you were respectful, we left a great impression, thank you! Now for the Minister’s announcement to come, watch this space…..

3 USFA Presidents Bob McComb, Jack Jones, Simon Trippe. Jack is now a keen angler with St George and Sutherland Shire Anglers.

Spearfishers meet the Minister

Bob McComb, Hon. Tara Moriarty, Simon Trippe, Mel Brown AM, Hon. Mark Banasiak

Thursday 30th November 

Mel Brown AM, Bob McComb and myself arrived at Parliament House to meet several politicians to discuss  spearfishing. The Hon. Robert Borsak and the Hon. Mark Banasiak who represent the Shooters and Fishers Party greeted the USFA warmly and a great discussion began about the proposed right to hunt bill, which will include us fishers and spearfishers, and will go lengths to ensure we will have the threat of lockouts extinguished.

Prepped with the confirmation that the SFP will support spearfishers (as was evidenced at the recent proposed Bongin Bongin beach sanctuary supported by the Greens) and with further understanding of the political landscape at Macquarie Street, Mark kindly took us to meet the Hon. Tara Moriarty the Minister for Agriculture (Fisheries is in the portfolio). 

This was the first time we have met the new Minister, and Tara was extremely gracious throughout the meeting. We were pleasantly surprised to have the Fisheries Deputy Director General, Sean Sloan, join our meeting online. 

Mel, Bob and I (over 100 years of spearfishing lobbying between us) discussed points of interest. Discussing topics such as:

  • the USFA advocating ethics, education, safety, inclusion, and spearfishers rights to fish for 75 years, the need for safe access for all age groups and abilities was stressed.
  • North Harbour Aquatic Reserve, where spearfishers are the only stakeholder omitted from the reserve, it was a decision made with the flick of a pen with no scientific evidence behind it, nor in 40 years has any scientific data been shown why it should be denied to us. We have requested the Reserve (there are two) particularly the areas around North Head and Dobroyd Point include spearfishing.
  • How we could work together to promote spearfishing on International Women’s Day.
  • Informing the Minister of our membership: including our newer clubs like the Orca’s who have up to 500 members involved in their club, and indigenous spearfishing club the Mulloways, all eight USFA clubs various activities were mentioned.
  • Discussed the recent Sydney Kingfish Cup with its record sign on and growth, and how we contribute to science with Fisheries biologists, giving presentations during the fanfare of the Cup, and were involved with sample collections from the Kingfish to use in their research
  • Requesting a Centre of Excellence. Providing a venue where all fishers can meet and further bond community ties, display historic items, a venue to develop future fishers and spearfishers.
  • Slot sizes and the issues spearfishers face when imposed on finfish species were discussed, spearfishing is not a trophy fishery, we requested the regulation imposed on spearfishers regarding the Dusky Flathead be reviewed and we would like to go back to the original regulation for spearfishers, that is one fish over 70cm is allowed.
  • Having an endorsed spearfishing representative, think someone who actually spearfishes and is approved of by the two NSW spearfishing associations, who will ensure transparent communications with the Minister, Fisheries and all spearfishers across NSW, keeping us abreast of current topics and arising points of interest which has been sadly lacking for several years.

Next step is to follow up with the Ministry on these points, and start the processes, we are fortunate to have the support of the Shooters and Fishers, and the Minister is happy to engage with us ongoing. Overall, an incredibly positive first meeting.

Simon Trippe, President of USFA NSW with Mel Brown AM, National Spearfishing Historian

New-look USFA diving into speaking up for spearo’s

Brian Hackett, Hon Dugald Saunders MP and Michael Featherstone

As part of the new-look USFA, we recently met with the Director of Strategy for the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, to take our issues directly to Macquarie Street. As part of these positive discussions, the USFA arranged a face-to-face meeting with the NSW Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon Dugald Saunders MP. 

The meeting was held in Woopi, at Mick Featherstone’s place (Mick has been the spearfishing rep for Solitary Islands advisory committee for over 12 years). Brian Hackett, the President of the Coffs Harbour Blue Water Freedivers, was also in attendance.  Mick and Brian discussed the Government announcement to introduce a slot limit for the Dusky Flathead (and prosecute the USFA’s position on the matter), gauge the Ministers interest in introducing more marine parks while explaining the importance of our spatial needs in the parks.

Thanks for your time @Dugald Saunders @Paul Toole  @Gurmesh Singh 

We will be continuing our efforts to ensure that spearfishers voices are heard with decision makers here in NSW. Please reach out if you have any queries or comments!

USFA Chairman Simon Trippe with Director of Strategy, Hugh at the Deputy Premier’s Office

UPDATE: USFA Position Statement

USFA Position Statment 22.09.2018

Fishers In the last month we have witnessed a truly organic uprising against a series of over reaching Marine Protected Areas in the Sydney Bio Region. Fishers in NSW are finding their political legs and this can only bode well for us all going forward. This is the third time I personally have fought a similar proposal, initially in 92-93 against the Sydney Coastal Council Group, then in 2009 against the “Torn Blue Fringe” and now against the Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA). The irony in all this is that we do have a very strong conservation ethic, want healthy and productive oceans, are low risk in regards to threats, yet are continually scapegoated and demonised as the villains. Even if we win this it wont be the end, we will need to continually be vigilant and prepared into the future.

It should be clear to USFA members, all spearo’s and fishers that we won’t be compromising or trading off one location against another. We are however, happy to talk to the Government about workable solutions going forward. We see MEMA as the main protagonists and want to see MEMA replaced with an advisory committee made up of elected stakeholders with its Chair reporting directly to the Minister. We would like independent and transparent scientific reviews into the key risks of the proposed and existing marine protected areas with the view to improving the access to low risk activities. The advisory committee should oversee these scientific reviews.

The USFA is supporting a ten-year moratorium on any new marine protected areas. Whilst in principle multi-use marine protected areas appear nice on the surface, once in place the “use” can be changed with the stroke of a pen by regulators with out going through the legislative process. We through experience have a lack of faith and trust in the regulatory process. Marine protected areas have existed in this state for several decades yet we have seen little in the way of measurable outcomes particularly concerning water quality, abundance in biodiversity, biomass or research. Although we are calling for increases access for low risk activities in established MPA’s we are not yet calling for their abolishment. We feel ten years to improve the outcomes and performance of the managers of these areas before establishing more or demolishing the existing as fair.

Being fully aware that this will historically be remembered as only one in a long series of battles for fishing rights and access, it is important that we build our resilience. Our opponents are well organised and well funded often out of public funds. I believe that we all should now be pushing for funding and premises for a fishing museum and an adjunct research foundation, so as to have a centre for education and training. We need to be supporting and developing our future leaders, improving environmental awareness, improving safety for ourselves and also valuing our unique and diverse fishing culture and traditions. It is hard to believe that there are over a million of us, yet we receive nothing in the way of this like the arts or other sports.

The events of this past month, whilst unpleasant, have really galvanised the fishing community. We should be proud of ourselves. We have seen many alliances between stakeholders strengthened, new and future leaders emerge and a political awakening of the fishing lobby, let’s continue the momentum and use this new found power constructively and wisely.

Thank you,
Bob McComb
President USFA

USFA rejects the ‘Sydney Marine Park Proposal’ What you can do to Help.

Hello Everyone,

USFA rejects the ‘Sydney Marine Park Proposal’

Please see the attached documentation regarding the USFA’s position on the Sydney Marine Parks, information on each proposed site and what you can do to help stop it.

USFA members what to do – What you need to do.

USFA recommendations HBRMP – This is the USFA’s position on each proposed marine parks. 

PETITION_MARINE PARKS – Please complete as many petition sheet as you can and return to the address listed on the bottom.

Nth Hbr Aqu Res Disc Resp 200616 – About the North Harbour Aquatic Reserve  


False statement to be rectified in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment

Following an official complaint made to the Department of Primary Industries about a false statement made in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment concerning spearfishing, Mel Brown has gotten an apology on behalf of spearfishing.
The two pieces of correspondence mentioned are published here:

From Mel Brown:

To: Geoff Allen,
Attached are copies of correspondence to Peter Gallagher and Minister Niall Blair concerning a false statement that appears in a document of the Hawkesbury shelf Bioregion.
Peter Gallagher has neither acknowledged receipt of this document or responded to it.
Previously the reasoning for excluding spearfishing from the North Harbour Aquatic reserve whilst continuing to allow other forms of recreational fishing was only made in correspondence to the USFA. To now see this claim, which was utterly false, appearing in print necessitates the strongest possible response.
There was, and never has been, a legitimate reason to exclude spearfishers from this reserve where other forms of fishing are allowed.

Yours sincerely
Mel Brown AM

DPI’s response to Mel:

Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 1 200616Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 2 200616Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 3 200616

Continue reading False statement to be rectified in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment

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

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

Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion assessment

Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregionAs many of you are aware there is a huge push to create another marine park from Newcastle to Wollongong. We are working as hard as we can to minimise the impacts to  spear fishers as much as possible. We set to lose out big time here especially as shallow reefs and headlands <25m include 95% of the areas that we dive.

Continue reading 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

Dear Minister


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