Fishing Regulations | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:34 :03 ): Let me support the member for Elder in saying no to domestic violence. Any effort whatsoever that can go towards doing that is incredibly important. The subject of my grievance speech today is the soon to be imposed new fishing regulations for coastal waters in South Australia and particularly the impact they will have on the Upper Spencer Gulf.

I am sure every member of parliament here would agree that we need to use all our natural resources very sensibly and very wisely and ensure that they are sustainable, but that does not mean that you cannot touch them and that does not mean that you cannot use them and that does not mean that you should not be innovative in the way that we access resources. I would like to talk particularly about recreational fishers in the Upper Spencer Gulf, understanding very well that commercial fishing is an incredibly important part of the broader fishing sector.

Recreational fishing in the Upper Spencer Gulf is actually under a fair bit of pressure at the moment. I would like to put on the record my thanks to Mr Robin Sharp, who for decades now has contributed to sensible debate and offered useful suggestions about how government regulations could be imposed without unnecessary burdens on the people of Port Augusta and the Upper Spencer Gulf. I would also like to thank Mr Josh Kirkham, who came with Robin Sharp and presented to the Legislative Review Committee several weeks ago. Robin has done so twice recently, Josh accompanied him once, and they both made a valuable contribution. In fact, in around 1995 Robin presented to that community as well.

The issue we are dealing with at the moment in Port Augusta is the government’s intention to increase the minimum size limit for King George Whiting from 30 centimetres to 31 centimetres for the entire Spencer Gulf. That might seem like a very small thing—one centimetre, one-thirtieth of a change in size—so what is the difference? If you know a bit about fishing, and I know a bit about fishing, or if you talk to people other than me who know a lot about fishing in this region, they will explain very well that it actually makes a huge difference. In fact, it is actually quite hard to catch a fish bigger than 31 centimetres.

Things have been like this for a very long time. This is not because the region has been fished out. This is not because there has been an overly great impact by fishers. It has actually always been that way. When the government and the department over many years have looked at fish stocks and thought that they were lower than they wanted them to be, they have changed the size limit. When they change the size limit, they say that will make a difference and then several years later they come back and say, ‘Well, we still haven’t got the result we want, so we’ll change the size limit again. We still haven’t got the result we want, so we’ll change the size limit again.’

The reality is that history shows us changing the size limit is actually not working. There are things that could work, but the main objective of this very short opportunity to speak in parliament is to ask the government to consider a special zone in the very upper Spencer Gulf. I know that every MP thinks that his or her area is special and wants special consideration, but by world standards, the Upper Spencer Gulf is quite unique. There are other places like it around the world, but there are none other in Australia. It is a hypersaline inverse estuary, where the top of the gulf supports habitat that does not exist anywhere else south of it. Some species do exist in more tropical waters around the upper eastern and upper western coast of the nation. I would like the government to consider this very seriously.

I put on record my thanks to minister Leon Bignell, who met with Robin Sharp and me to discuss this issue. He was apparently told by his staff that people in the community meetings were all supportive of these changes to regulations. I can tell you that is not the case. It may well have been in meetings that I did not attend, but I attended a meeting in Port August where that certainly was not the case. In fact, during a parliament week I also attended a meeting in Glenelg, just to get another viewpoint from a part of the state I am not so familiar with, and people there were not happy about these changes to regulations. I am not saying that the government should change everything to make people happy, but I am saying that the Upper Spencer Gulf is worthy of consideration of a special zone.