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Pew gloats as anglers prepare for battle

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Taken from Fishing World Email Newsletter

18 Jun 2012

By Fisho staff writers

THE US-based Pew organisation is claiming victory in its anti-fishing agenda following the announcement last week of a system of federal marine parks in Australian waters. However, Aussie anglers are preparing for the next stage of the battle with a concerted campaign aiming to ensure access to iconic fishing areas.

While admitting he had failed to achieve a complete no-fishing ban in Australia's Coral Sea, Pew Global Ocean Legacy director Jay Nelson described the commonwealth marine reserves zoning plan made by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke last Thursday as "very good news". Nelson said Pew had been leading a "determined coalition of 15 Australian and international conservation groups in a challenging campaign to achieve protection for the Coral Sea".

"While the outcome is not all that we would have wanted, it is a major contribution to global ocean protection," Nelson said.

Pew is also claiming credit for banning anglers from other areas around Australia. "I'm also pleased to report that our Pew Environment Group colleagues working in other coastal areas of Australia were successful in securing an additional 282,000 square kilometres of fully protected marine waters spread across sites along Australia´s southwest, north, and northwest marine regions."

Pew's victory speeches come as Australian anglers unite behind the newly-formed Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF), which is undertaking a national campaign urging the Government to avoid locking anglers out of iconic fishing areas.

"ARFF and our advocacy arm Keep Australia Fishing will be staging intensive campaigns to ensure that Mr Burke and his Labour Government colleagues realise that anglers are not a threat to our marine environments," ARFF spokesman Allan Hansard told Fisho.

"We'll be mobilising Australia's 5 million anglers so that the Government very clearly hears what we want and expect from these federal marine parks. The simple message will be 'Don't Lock Us Out'."

The marine parks announced last week are now subject to a 60-day consultation period after which they will be passed into law. Management plans allowing what activities are and aren't allowed in the various zones will then need to be prepared and finalised. It is understood that Mr Burke wishes these management plans to be in place before the upcoming federal election, due in 2013.

Hansard said ARFF would be directing resources towards the management plan process in order to minimise loss of angling access in key areas in the Coral Sea and in the southwest region of WA. "While we support sensible measures to protect our marine resources from unsustainable activities like industrial exploitation and mining, there's no need to ban recreational fishing. The Government has plenty of management methods by which it can achieve its environmental objectives without having to lock us out."

Angling leaders had worked with Tony Burke to come up with compromise deals before last week's zoning announcement. One such compromise was protecting "hard reef" areas in the Coral Sea but allowing sportfishing activities along reef edges. Examination of the maps released by the Environment Department show that some reef edges around iconic sportfishing areas such as Osprey, Shark and Marion reefs appear to be open, but until detailed maps with accurate contour lines are released it is impossible to assess whether Mr Burke has kept his word on this issue.

For these reef edges to remain as viable fishing areas, access needs to be maintained up to the perimeter of the reef, thus allowing anglers to cast, troll and jig for pelagic species such as marlin, wahoo, mackerel, dogtooth and yellowfin.

Meanwhile, ARFF and Keep Australia Fishing are launching a poster and flyer campaign in all Australian fishing tackle stores – the KFA website will be operational soon at: wwwkeepaustraliafishing.org.– which will serve as the main hub for all campaigns relating to marine parks and other issues facing Australian anglers.

ARFF will also be funding a national advertising campaign highlighting the economic and social threats to coastal and regional communities as a result of anti-fishing campaigns being staged by international organisations such as Pew.

"Australians need to know that these marine parks, and the extra closures and bans that the environment groups are already pushing for, pose a big threat to communities all around the nation," Hansard said.

"Job losses, declines in tourism, big impacts on the boating and tackle industries and, probably the most important of all, the inability of average Aussies to go and wet a line are what will result from the anti-fishing agendas of Pew and its cohorts.

"The marine parks just announced are just the tip of the iceberg. The environment groups are already calling for more closures, for more fishing areas to be taken away from us. They're not going to stop. We need to tell the Government that enough's enough, that anglers aren't the problem.

"We need the Government to stop toeing the Pew line and to realise that recreational fishing need not be banned from the Coral Sea reefs and from the waters in south-west WA."

While Pew's Jay Nelson seems to be claiming victory following the Government's marine parks announcements, the federal Coalition, which is likely to take power following the 2013 election, is set to rain on his parade, pundits say.

Senator Richard Colbeck, the Opposition's fisheries spokesman, made it clear to Fisho last week that while a Coalition government would be constrained to some extent by laws regarding the zoning of the new marine parks, there would be no hesitation in amending what can or can't happen in those zones. This would mean that "green" zones which currently ban all fishing could be amended to allow certain types of sustainable fishing activity to occur.

Rec fishing leaders have welcomed the Coalition's flexible approach on the management of marine park zones while highlighting the essential differences between recreational and commercial fishing. "It's important the Coalition listen to anglers when we say that C&R sportfishing along a reef edge is vastly different in terms of sustainability than, say, dragging a trawl net across the ocean floor. ARFF represents the interests of Australian anglers. Developing sustainable ways to fish is part and parcel with those interests and the Coalition – and the current Government, for that matter - needs to realise that you can't just lump rec fishing in with industrial fishing."

Senator Colbeck said the Coalition was committed to having a scientific committee review the marine parks and said he favoured a "common sense" approach to marine protection. "If, for example, the science said it was important that coral reef be protected, then we would protect that reef. But protecting reef doesn't stopping someone from fishing, it just might mean that they can't drop an anchor on the coral. That's the logical approach here."

While last week's announcements by Tony Burke have resulted in the Pew honchos in America celebrating another win in their global marine protection campaign, the fact that the management plans are not yet finalised, combined with the looming federal election, mean that it would seem unwise for anyone involved in this issue to claim victory – or admit defeat – just yet.

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Taken from Fishing World Email Newsletter

Scott Coghlan is the editor of WA Angler and a columnist for Perth's Sunday Times.

OPINION: Feds lay up for the Greens

18 Jun 2012

By Scott Coghlan

IF you are the kind of person who believes Caddyshack was a golf documentary, then you might also accept that the federal Labor Government's announcement of 44 new marine parks was driven by environmental imperatives. Because Environment Minister Tony Burke's claims that the health of the ocean was his only concern are as far removed from reality as Carl Spackler's battles with a rogue gopher.

The truth is that recreational anglers have been flipped the bird(ie) by Labor in a desperate bid to curry favour with green voters and keep its powerful partners in the Greens Party happy.

At the business end of a shambolic consultation process that would make you laugh if you didn't want to cry, the most comedic aspect of the announcement, which means Australia will have more than 70 per cent of the world's marine parks, was the closure of an area to fishing at the Rottnest Trench, which they like to call the Perth Canyon.

Burke defended the lockout at the Trench, which followed concerted pressure from environmental groups often funded by overseas interests such as the rich Pew Charitable Trusts (a US-based environmental foundation set up by an oil company), by saying it was the equivalent of the Grand Canyon and demanded similar protection.

Never mind that one is 20-odd miles offshore, covered by hundreds of metres of water and virtually inaccessible to almost everyone, unlike the tourist mecca that is the Grand Canyon, which gets millions of visitors each year.

This decision, Burke said, was based on the need to protect the feeding grounds of the pygmy blue whales that visit the area occasionally. I am not aware of any evidence of interaction, ever, between recreational anglers and pygmy blue whales at the Rottnest Trench.

In fact, most recreational fishing activity at the Trench involves trolling in the top few metres of water often more than 500m deep for pelagic fish passing through the area, such as marlin. This occurs for just a few months a year, is almost exclusively a catch and release fishery that involves no resource extraction, and offers a huge economic return per fish caught – sounds like the modern perfect fishery to me and yet some people want it banned. One can only wonder what impact the naval exercises that will no doubt continue at the Trench have on these whales.

It's comedy gold that should have anyone who fishes seriously considering how they vote at the next Federal Election, with the Federal Liberal Party immediately vowing to apply a science-based review of the marine parks if it gets into power.

Perth Game Fishing Club secretary Peter Coote slammed the decision on the Trench.

"PGFC is extremely disappointed that contrary to earlier indications there has been a Marine National Park of some 70 square kilometres proclaimed in the middle of the Rottnest Trench (Perth Canyon). Fish species caught in this area are pelagic (highly mobile) and placing boundaries on the area in which they can be sought will have absolutely no impact on any species of fish or mammal that passes through the area which incidentally remains a high use commercial shipping lane," he said.

"In what is clearly an ideologically-based decision responsible recreational anglers have been excluded from a highly valued recreational fishery where they pose no threat to anything. So called scientific evidence, previously provided by the Commonwealth, was shown to be flawed, but the Minister has pressed ahead regardless with a fishing closure in the middle of one of the Western Australia's few blue marlin grounds."

Never one to consider the needs of others ahead of blinkered ideology, conservation groups were quick to warn it was just the beginning and that further closures would be needed. On the other side of the world, Pew's Jay Nelson trumpeted a major victory from his office in Alaska.

"I have some very good news," he said.

"This was our third successful project since the inception of Global Ocean Legacy.

"I´m also pleased to report that our Pew Environment Group colleagues ... were successful."

Remember also that these new parks only cover Commonwealth waters, more than three nautical miles offshore, with further announcements to come for State waters inshore of that line. The conservation groups and Burke couldn't even get their story straight – on the day of the announcement one radio station had an outspoken local supporter of marine parks saying we'd see more big fish as a result, while hours later the Environment Minister told 6PR that the parks had nothing to do with fisheries management.

While the Rottnest Trench closure raised the ire of many Perth fishers, new lockout areas in Geographe Bay and off Dampier, which weren't in draft maps, also surprised rec fishing representatives that had been involved in the consultation process in good faith, and who suddenly felt as if they had been swindled. Recfishwest chief executive officer Andrew Rowland was disappointed by the announcement, noting there was little scientific justification for locking anglers out of their own waters.

"Where is the science that says iconic fishing areas like Geographe Bay, the Rottnest Trench and Dampier need to be out of bounds to recreational fishing?" Dr Rowland asked.

"The detriment to the recreational fishing sector will be huge and for what conservation benefits?"

Interestingly, the announcement came just days before the Rio 20+ summit, at which Julia Gillard and her political chums will no doubt attempt to gain great mileage out of their carbon tax and shiny new marine parks, the biggest in the world. It reminds me of playing marbles at school in Albany when I was a kid.

Of course, while the Labor Government spruiks its environmental credentials and accepts the plaudits of the Chicken Little brigade that would have you believe all the issues facing the world's oceans will be solved by marine parks in Australia, it quietly approves oil and gas exploration close to the pristine Rowley Shoals. This week it made the decision to allow a 142m Dutch super trawler into our waters.

While recreational fishers should be up in arms, let's not forget the impact of further restrictions on the commercial sector, and furthermore the resulting impacts on everyday Australians. We already import 70 per cent of our seafood in Australia and this figure must inevitably rise as our population grows and the commercial supply of fish declines.

Catching fish has a much smaller environmental footprint than land-based agriculture, but we can look forward to much more of our seafood coming from South-East Asia in years to come, where there is not anywhere near the level of integrated fisheries management we enjoy in Australia. I'm no marine biologist, but this is hardly a good result for global fish stocks, although it is good news if you like eating basa.

WA's Fisheries Department, which released a paper a couple of years ago that found marine parks only have "limited" value in local waters, was not consulted at all during the process. One senior Fisheries official said: "this has nothing at all to do with science, what we are doing is exporting environmental unsustainability overseas."

Cost and enforcement are other major issues to consider. How will these marine parks be enforced and who will pay for that enforcement? It's not likely to be Pew, and it should be noted the commercial fishing compensation allocation for the original marine parks announced by the Howard Government at the Great Barrier Reef was budgeted as less than $10 million and blew out to more than $250 million.

Around $100 million has been allocated for industry compensation this time around and has already described as "woefully inadequate", and a similar blowout will make it an extraordinarily expensive way to buy votes. At least the commercial fishers get something, recreational anglers will receive absolutely no compensation.

Incredibly, the oil and gas industry has been left with virtually no impediment to exploration and extraction activities!

Yet Burke, the latest in a long line of Australian politicians to scramble for a personal legacy, would have us believe we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his actions.

In the words of another Caddyshack character, Judge Schmails,: "I owe you nothing!"

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I recommend everyone take 5 minutes to read this through.

The 'what's next?' question wont go away if these idiots are not stopped.

Eddie put up a little poem that is appropriate to use against these green extremist groups. Maybe he could post it again for us (??)

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Taken from Fishing World email newsletter

Pew linked to "dodgy" marine parks poll

16 Jul 2012

By Fisho staff writers

RESULTS from a recent survey revealing 70 per cent approval for the federal Government's marine parks plans have been called into question following revelations the polling company had close links with anti-fishing groups, including the US-based Pew organisation.

The poll was conducted by Essential Research on June 25 and has been used by NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann to push for more marine parks in that state. The results of the poll have also been used in mainstream media reports, including this article that appeared in the West Australian on July 11.

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Since the poll's release, it has been revealed that Essential Research has links with various anti-fishing groups via what appears to be its sister company, Essential Media Communications (EMC).

Recreational fishing activists questioned the veracity of the poll after a search on the federal Government's lobbyist register on June 12 revealed that The Wilderness Society and the Pew Environment Trust were listed as EMC's top two clients.

The Wilderness Society and Pew are driving forces behind campaigns to ban recreational fishing in the Coral Sea and the south-west of WA.

Along with various other organisations, Pew is involved with the WA-based Save Our Marine Life (SOML) alliance. According to its website, EMC works with SOML as a lobbyist "to build public awareness and lobby the Federal Government to significantly increase protection (in WA's south-west region)".

Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan contacted EMC staffer Paul Sheridan on July 12 in order to obtain more information about the poll results and clarify EMC's links with Pew and other anti-fishing groups.

In an email to Coghlan, Sheridan said "Essential Research and Essential Media Communications (EMC) are separate businesses and Essential Research was not commissioned by the Pew Environment Group or any other organisation to run (the question about marine parks)."

Sheridan also stated the Pew was no longer a client of EMC, despite being listed as such on a government website.

A former journalist and media advisor to NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen, Sheridan works as an associate director with EMC and was quoted in media reports discussing the Essential Research poll results.

Fisho has contacted Sheridan to clarify his position with Essential Research/EMC. At the time of publication we received no response but will detail any comments or statements if and when we receive them.

On June 13 references to Pew and The Wilderness Society were removed from EMC's listing on the Government's lobbyist register. The listings were removed less than 24 hours after Coghlan's initial inquiry about EMC/Essential Research's links with the anti-fishing groups.

Australian Recreational Fishing Federation spokesman Allan Hansard today said it was important that companies conducting polls on topical subjects such as marine parks fully disclose any links they may have with anti-fishing organisations.

"Not disclosing any possible links with groups pushing a particular bandwagon or with politicians wishing to use information to further their own ends tends to mean that polls like this one conducted by Essential Research can be seen as being a bit dodgy," Hansard said.

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Taken from Fishing World email newsletter

Who's Misleading Who, Pew?

26 Jul 2012

by Scott Coghlan

WA-based editor of Western Angler magazine and newspaper columnist.

FOR an organisation that claimed a naval battle 70 years ago was proof of the need to lock Australian fishers out of our own oceans, the United States-based and oil company-funded Pew Environment Group was quick to accuse local recreational angling groups of running a misleading campaign.

Just days after an unseemly Pew video surfaced linking the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942 to their campaign for marine parks, even using the words of Australian war veterans as "evidence" for their stance, the rich environmental group sent an email out to its supporters accusing recreational angling groups of "misleading" behaviour.

The email was in response to the Keep Australia Fishing campaign, which can be found at www.keepaustraliafishing.com.au and offers recreational anglers the opportunity to send an email to Environment Minister Tony Burke, who recently announced the new network of marine parks in Commonwealth waters.

Already, many thousands of anglers have taken the couple of minutes required to have their say, but this has upset Pew, which was happy to coordinate a similar campaign in the previous round of public submissions, and indeed extensively targeted submissions from foreign supporters with web pages around the globe.

Outraged that Australian anglers should be allowed to have their own say, Pew fired out an email slamming "lobby groups" for "flooding federal Environment Minister Tony Burke with negative emails demanding that coral reefs be left open to fishing. They have placed two large advertisements in The Australian which are misleading and inaccurate".

I found it intriguing that anglers are mere "lobby groups" – one would think we Australian fishers are in fact stakeholders in how our ocean is managed and it is this foreign conservation goliath that is the lobby group.

The email from Pew came just days after I discovered a video on their YouTube channel about the Battle of the Coral Sea. The video ran for just under seven minutes and featured two war veterans and a naval historian. Both the veterans wanted more recognition for the Coral Sea skirmish within Australia, and this quote: "The Coral Sea ought to be remembered. It should be a memorial of some sort, some sort of maritime reserve and it should be protected more than it is" was seized upon by Pew, which commissioned the video.

The spiel below the video drew a tenuous link between the historical significance of the Coral Sea and the need to lock fishing out: "Through the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign, Pew's Global Ocean Legacy is working with Australian conservation organizations (sic) to help safeguard this unique area for the future," it said.

I spoke to the naval historian, who said he was simply asked by Pew to provide a historical perspective of the battle "four or five years ago".

While neither of the veterans could be contacted, one was believed to be in very poor health at the time of filming and has apparently passed away since, I spoke to representatives of the Returned and Services League (RSL), who were most interested to see the video. But when they tried to watch it the following day, it had mysteriously disappeared from the Pew Group's YouTube channel.

RSL national president, rear admiral Ken Doolan, who said the Battle of the Coral Sea was very well recognised with ceremonies every year, believed it was quite obvious why the video, which had been up for more than 12 months, suddenly vanished.

"I'm sure the two people they interviewed were well meaning," he said.

"The fact they have taken it down from the website suggests they (Pew) know it was beyond the pale."

At the same time Pew was lambasting Australian angling groups and pulling down dodgy videos, an open letter from Pew to the US-based Sport Fishing magazine exposed the sheer hypocrisy of its push to lock up our waters. Sport Fishing's editor Doug Olander had written a piece about the push for marine parks in Australia and warned that the US would be next, tipping the Gulf of Mexico as the next marine battlefield.

However, Pew director of federal fisheries policy Lee Crockett said this would never happen, as the Gulf of Mexico had too much economic and social value to the US.

"Closing the Gulf to all fishing wouldn't make sense – for fishing enthusiasts or the environment," he said.

"These waters are a major US economic driver.

"The Gulf offers excellent angling opportunities, and sport and commercial fishing generates billions of dollars and provides fresh seafood to much of the nation."

In the letter, Crockett describes himself as an avid angler who enjoys fishing the Gulf of Mexico.

Just remind me again - who is it that is "misleading" the people of Australia?

Scott Coghlan

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