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