Marine protected areas are widely cited as a precautionary management method to bufferagainst the effects of fishing (e.g., Allison et al. 1998). Their efficacy will be determined by a wide range of localised factors, particularly the degree to which fish move and the spatial
structure of fished populations. Marine protected areas will also be more effective if they have the support of local communities (Hilborn 2004). Blanket recommendations for the necessary area to be protected are therefore meaningless. The size and location of spatial closures should be determined on a case-by-case basis if costly, unpopular and ineffective protected areas are to be avoided.
There have been major changes to the ways in which fisheries in NSW have been managed
over the past decade, many of these to address concerns about continued sustainability of the state’s marine resources. There have been two major government buy-outs of commercial fishing licenses (both acknowledged in the HCEC report), the most recent in concert with the closure of 30 estuarine areas to commercial fishing. Management Advisory Committees (MACs), made up of a broad range of representative stakeholders are now a feature of all the
fisheries of NSW. Data quality issues are gradually being addressed and practical methods to assess the complex fisheries in NSW are being developed (e.g., Scandol 2004). NSW DPI has also entered into collaborative partnership with two major institutions (Fisheries
Centre, University of British Columbia; and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) to help clarify the issues of ecosystem-based fisheriesmanagement through data analysis and computer simulation. Both of these projects involve
bringing together all available data for the fisheries of NSW so that questions about sustainability and ecosystem-based fisheries management can be addressed in a rigorous and defensible way.
For the reasons outlined in the previous sections, we believe the Hunter Community Environment Centre report is poorly formulated, lacks rigour and provides no evidence to support its claims, except (for some species known to be of conservation concern) citation of
works already published by NSW DPI. As already noted, oversimplistic interpretation of trends in landings alone, at best, is liable to provide an incomplete picture of the status of the fishery and, at worst, serves to perpetrate confusion and misinformation. Publication of the report’s findings in the Sydney Morning Herald (April 14, 2006), which announced that the state’s fisheries are “on the edge of collapse”, sparked accusatory responses from members of the
public accusing different sectors of irresponsible fishing practices (SMH April 17, 2006). The report’s credibility was not questioned. Not surprisingly, the public are not, in general, well informed
about the details of fisheries science and should not be expected to be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources.
>”We do not question that there are conservation concerns for many species in NSW”.
The authors then mentioned that these were gemfish and some shark species. The shark species are not a signficant part of the NSW fishery or a main target species as Ken suggested. Pitcher and Forrest did not recommend marine parks as an effective way of conserving them. Indeed as far as recreational fishing is concerned they have a zero bag limit. The other species mentioned is gemfish – for which the commercial fishery is all but closed. Although depleted the gemfish is unlikely to become endangered.
>”We also do not question that recreational fisheries in NSW are large and are likely to impact the abundance of a number of marine species”.
Any significant fishing effort affects the abundance of marine species. Maximum sustainable yeild is usually regarded as 30- 40% of the virgin spawning biomass.
> “The public has generally been slow to realise that recreational harvests may, in some cases, equal or exceed commercial harvests”.
They also have been slow to realise that the commercial effort is small with only 1000 commercial fishermen in NSW waters and the fact that NSW imports 91% of it’s seafood!
>”In Australia, as in the rest of the world, there are legitimate concerns for conservation of our marine environments and sustainability of seafood resources. In many of the world’s collapsed fish stocks, fishing pressure was not regulated at a constant or near constant rate and harvest rates continued to rise as stock biomass decreased
>We would argue that NSW DPI has made efforts to address these types of problems and is at least moving in the right direction towards greater sustainability of its fisheries”.
They have made quite a bit of effort in this direction with the reduction in commercial fishermen from 7000 in the 1990′s to 1000 today and the fact that fish are now being caught at half the rate since then by commercial fishermen.
>”Not surprisingly, the public are not, in general, well- informed about the details of fisheries science and should not be expected to be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources”.
That’s why they have been so easy to hoodwink on marine parks!]]>
“Don’t kid yourself Philip, Australia’s fish stocks are not what they once were.”
The only way they had to go was down. As the UBC pointed out some deline from the unfished state is to be expected in any significant fishery and has nothing to do with the long term sustainability of the fishery. Removing a proportion of fish actually benifits younger age classes as they have less competion for food and less predation. Fish grow faster under fishing pressure. Maxiumum sustainable yield is usually regarded when the stock is fished down to around 30-40% of the virgin spawning biomass.]]>
“think the emotive aspects are what the current political debate is about; without them this wouldn’t have raised a ripple.”
There is emototion on both sides of the debate, Ken. Leaving that aside there is a cost to marine parks and just because you don’t consider yourself affected you can’t just dismiss it. People will (and have) lose their livelyhoods over this.
“I know my forest analogy is only that but I don’t think it’s entirely inappropriate – in the absence of restrictions the more highly sought species have suffered most and some look unlikely to ever recover.”
Not true. The most overfished species in Australia tend to be those which are vulnerable because of their biology, ie slow growth rates or slow reproduction rates (eg some species of sharks), and not the most popular species.
“I have little doubt that politicians would have been stirring up sentiment amongst the many fishermen who oppose any restrictions on their activities (as many have so far at every point) and with as little regard for science.”
Not true. Many past initiatives have been well accepted by fishermen, after all except for a few they want a future for their occupation/ pastime. Also you are wrong about the groundswell against marine parks. It’s a grassroots phenomenon – not the result of ‘stirring up’ by politicians. As to science you keep suggesting it is all on the side of marine parks (without offering evidence) – this merely indicates you have a bias on the subject.]]>
>We do not question that there are conservation concerns for many species in NSW
>We also do not question that recreational fisheries in NSW are large and are likely to impact the abundance of a number of marine species.
> The public has generally been slow to realise that recreational harvests may, in some cases, equal or exceed commercial harvests
>In Australia, as in the rest of the world, there are legitimate concerns for conservation of our marine environments and sustainability of seafood resources. In many of the world’s collapsed fish stocks, fishing pressure was not regulated at a constant or near constant rate and harvest rates continued to rise as stock biomass decreased
>We would argue that NSW DPI has made efforts to address these types of problems and is at least moving in the right direction towards greater sustainability of its fisheries.
I can’t really argue with most of the above, and particularly appreciate this sentance:
>Not surprisingly, the public are not, in general, well- informed about the details of fisheries science and should not be expected to be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources.
Misguided Claims of Overfishing in New South Wales: Comment on “Empty Oceans
Empty Nets. An evaluation of NSW fisheries catch statistics from 1940 to 2000”
Robyn Forrest and Tony J Pitcher
Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Faith Based Fisheries – Ray Hilborn
You comparison between forestry and fishing reveals a lack of understanding on how different the marine environment is. Predation is extremely high as is the ability of fish to reproduce. Fishermen are just another snout in the trough. If not overdone fishing does little harm to marine ecosystems as it is just culling a bit off the top of the ecosystem, not cutting at it’s base as with felling a forest.]]>
How much effort I put in will depend on how much sensible debate I get from the other side of the argument (most of the assessments involve different species and there are multiple jurustictions).
Phillip – I’m happy to debate the science behind Marine Parks in Australia (in particular the GBR), and to some extent the economics, but not emotive issues. Consider this an open platform for all sides of the debate.]]>
I can’t help but recall to mind an argument I had with a timber cutter who insisted there are more trees now than ever before (and therefore old growth forests are improved by logging) and by numbers he was right, at least near where I live; the earliest records showed forest with about 5 trees per acre. Numbers per acre in areas of regrowth (pretty much all that exists now) are vastly more than that now but none of them holds a candle to those giants or supports the biodiversity such forests once did or even have the economic value they once did. Whole species that were an essential part of that mix are absent – there’s little or no red cedar or white beech in that regrowth, or several other of the most highly prized timber trees. I think there are real parallels with our marine environment.]]>