Apr 03 2012

More foreign fish with your chips

The peak industry body representing professional fishing in the state says despite our massive coastline, 70 per cent of the fish we eat is imported and a new plan will only increase that to about 80 per cent.  Western Australian Fishing Industry Council chairman Brad Adams said a Federal Government plan to create a Commonwealth marine park in the south-west region was a big concern for the industry.

He said while the Ngari Capes Marine Park which was announced by state Environment Minister Bill Marmion on the weekend would not have a huge impact on the industry, the national plan was a big concern. "It is looking at preserving 30 per cent of Australian waters in marine parks," Mr Adams said. "Such large sanctuary zones will affect the commercial industry."

"No one has told me what the point of the sanctuary zone is; the fisheries industry is already sustainable. "We are already importing 70 per cent of our fish, it'll mean we will import 80 per cent of fish from countries that don't have sustainable fishing plans like we do," Mr Adams said.

He said part of the plan would cover gill net fishing in a section of the South-West between Bunbury and Windy Harbour would and reduce the amount of shark caught in the area by 25 per cent. "That means 25 per cent less shark from that area in your fish and chips," Mr Adams said.

He said the plan would also abolish two trawling licenses in the area, which would mean a reduced haul of local scallops. "Any loss of fishing is a concern, the fishing industry has been under attack by green groups for years now," Mr Adams said.

He said the plan would lock up the state's future food security. "It's in our best interests to have a stable fishing industry," Mr Adams said

"We already have the best managed fisheries in the world." He said the plan would simply open up the area for fishing operations from foreign countries.

"Who will police these massive areas of ocean?" Mr Adams said. "We are inviting foreign countries to come in and fish our marine stocks."

Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of WA said the WAFIC was missing the point if they thought marine parks were about sustainable fishing."It's about protecting marine life, protecting special places and the animals that live in those areas," he said. Mr Nicol said while some may evaluate fishing as sustainable, marine environments could still benefit from protection."You really can't tell what a marine environment is like without the impact of fishing, without removing it," he said.

Mr Nicol said the abundance of fish could increase without commercial fishing and areas could recover dramatically to an extent that some people were not aware could exist. "At the moment less than one per cent of our marine environments are put aside for conservation," he said.

Mr Nicol said voluntary reporting of gill net fishing, used to catch sharks, meant the true impact on animals like endangered sea lions was not commonly reported. He said estimations based on observer reports in South Australia calculated that 374 sea lions were killed as a result of gill net fishing each breading season which lasts 18 months.

This article was written by Aleisha Orr & originally published on smh.com.au on March 27, 2012 - 12:25AM

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