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Monday, 15 March 2010
Page: 2387

Mr CHEESEMAN (12:53 PM) —I rise to speak on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Bill 2010. I have a lot to say about this particular issue, particularly with regard to my federal electorate of Corangamite, which has a very significant recreational and charter fishing community. The member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, and I worked diligently over the January-February period with our minister, Minister Garrett, in dealing with this particular matter.

Recreational fishing is a very popular pastime throughout Australia. Many people take up fishing as a recreational activity, me included. During January I was fishing in Port Macdonnell off the South Australian coast. I know many people from Victoria go to South Australia to fish but also along the Great Ocean Road and other parts of my electorate, and many take the opportunity to fish for sports fish such as the mako shark.

A very significant recreational fishing and charter fishing community has been established to fish for the mako shark. Many employment opportunities have been created within my electorate, particularly in areas such as Queenscliff, Torquay and along the Surf Coast. Recreational fishing in my electorate is very significant. Significantly, the ban that came into place was because of the crisis in shark populations in other parts of the world. There is very little evidence to suggest that the mako shark and other associated species are in any danger at all within our region; in fact, it is quite the contrary from evidence I have heard firsthand in my consultations with the recreational fishing community in my electorate.

I was very pleased to hear the member for O’Connor’s contribution about the recognition that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, an act enacted by the previous Liberal government, was the cause of this particular problem. We are undoing a legal straitjacket that was imposed on us by that particular act and an international treaty. This amendment enables that decision to be overturned to enable recreational mako fishing to continue in Australia’s Commonwealth waters. It is very significant for the fishermen in my electorate but also for the charter boat operators who operate within my electorate and throughout south-west Victoria and across the nation. The laws passed by the previous Liberal government meant that the mako shark had to be listed under treaties that are associated with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This amendment overturns that decision.

I am a passionate fisherman. I think I caught my first fish when I was about four years old. It was a rock cod. Again, I listened with interest to the contribution by the member for O’Connor.

Mr Trevor interjecting

Mr CHEESEMAN —The member for Flynn cheekily asks me whether it was four or five centimetres long—it might have been slightly bigger than that but I am not sure it was quite large enough to take home for the plate.

In my younger days I had the opportunity from time to time to go out on a cray boat at Port Macdonnell in South Australia and I came across many fantastic people in that activity. Fishing and sport fishing is a wonderful way to relax. The mako shark species is a real thrill to catch. It puts up a significant fight. It is a shark species that is known to frighten fishermen when they have hooked one often by attempting to jump into the boat. I know a lot of people take tremendous pleasure in targeting that species.

This particular bill, the environment protection and biodiversity conservation amendment bill, will put in place the necessary amendments to enable the status quo to continue, which is fantastic. I urge the Liberal Party and the minor parties in the Senate to pass this particular amendment as speedily as possible to enable charter boat operators and recreational anglers to get back to their particular passion.

In 2008 the longfin mako, the shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks were listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, particularly because of concerns about populations of those sharks emanating out of the Northern Hemisphere. The independent review of the EPBC Act, the Hawke review, examined the provisions of the EPBC Act relating to migratory species and found that the clear intention of the CMS was to differentiate between appendix I and appendix II species and the level of protection required. The Hawke review recommended changes to the provisions of part 13 of the EPBC Act. This bill is an interim response to the issues identified by the Hawke review, as they apply to mako and porbeagle sharks, while the government develops and implements its formal response to the Hawke review.

The government of course takes its international obligations seriously. However, it is important that laws properly reflect and implement our international obligations, whilst also providing the flexibility to take into account particular domestic circumstances. This is a very clear example where those species of shark are not, in any way at all, threatened as they are in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is an intergovernmental treaty that is concerned about the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. Australia has been a party to that convention since 1991 and, under those arrangements, it contributes actively and constructively to international conservation efforts. These changes will leave our international obligations intact but will ensure that local circumstances and local decisions are based on the science of populations of these particular species.

I would like to pay particular tribute to a number of people, whom I worked very closely with, who represent my local fishing community and charter boat operators. Steve Burton, who is the commodore of the Torquay Angling Club, and Shane Korth, the secretary of the club, worked very hard with me through January and February to ensure that the government was taking heed of the advice coming out of the recreational fishing community. That advice was of course fed to the minister responsible, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett. The member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, was also working very closely with his representatives. In conversations with them and their club members they made it very clear that they recognised the efforts the government was taking in overturning this decision. Not only did they recognise that we were in a difficult position, in a legal straitjacket, because of the decisions of the previous government but also that parliament does not sit in January or February and that it would take some time for these amendments to work their way through this place. Today I would particularly like to thank and acknowledge Steve and Shane for their efforts. They have made it clear to me that they are diehard Labor voters, as is the recreational and charter boat fishing community. It was important that government took these decisions as quickly as we could to ensure that Labor voters in those fishing communities could get back to recreational fishing.

I would also like to thank the Victorian peak lobby group, VRFish, a thoroughly professional group of recreational anglers. I would particularly like to thank Christopher Collins and Ben Scullin, who did a fantastic job in advocating for the Victorian recreational fishing industry. Again, I would like to acknowledge their contribution.

I want to put on the record a very clear caution, in the same spirit as that of the member for O’Connor. That is, as recreational fishermen, we need to ensure that we are fishing in a sustainable way. We need to ensure that decisions into the future on mako or any other species are made based on proper science and that that science needs to take account of our local circumstances, including our local population of fish species and others. In future, when making decisions, we must work very closely with recreational fishing bodies to ensure that we take account of the evidence on the ground rather than simply impose international obligations on ourselves without having due regard for the science underpinning those decisions. Recreational fishermen do want to leave a sustainable legacy for future generations and we need to ensure that proper science is undertaken that considers local circumstances, not just those of the Northern Hemisphere.

I commend this bill to the House. I do request that the Senate considers these matters in a timely way and acts upon this amending legislation so that our recreational fishing communities can get back to what they love and that is fishing.