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Monday, 15 March 2010
Page: 2392


Mr TREVOR (1:20 PM) —I thank the member for Lyne for his contribution. I too rise today to support the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Bill 2010. Like many others in both my electorate of Flynn and around Australia generally, I am a keen fisherman. It is a sport, and often a food-gathering exercise, that I am very passionate about. There are very few sports—and I have played a lot of them—that can compete with the thrill that fishing provides when you finally pull your fish onto the boat after the long and exhausting battle against it—man against fish, fish against man. It is an incredible experience that can be enjoyed by all and it is enjoyed by thousands in my electorate of Flynn.

The mako shark is just one of the many fish that provide this experience, which is why it is both highly prized and targeted by people engaged in recreational fishing, although the porbeagle shark also is taken by people engaged in recreational fishing in southern Australian waters. The targeting of mako sharks is often the cause of the porbeagle shark being taken, as it is very difficult to distinguish from mako sharks and is often misidentified.

I have elected to speak on this bill today because the changes it will make have significant implications for recreational fishing, with particular specificity to longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks. The changes in this bill allow for the continuation of recreational fishing for mako and porbeagle sharks. This bill will use the term ‘recreational fishing’ and clarifies that this includes fishing by charter boat staff, competition fishing and fishing undertaken primarily for media and entertainment purposes.

The bill will provide an exception to all offences under part 13, division 2 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act relating to listed migratory species which will apply only to recreational fishing of longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks in Commonwealth areas. This includes the provisions that prohibit killing, injuring, taking, trading, keeping or moving listed migratory species in Commonwealth areas and trading, keeping or moving a listed migratory species that has been taken in a Commonwealth area. It is important to note that the bill is not designed to overrule any state or territory laws prohibiting recreational fishing for longfin mako, shortfin mako or porbeagle sharks.

The restrictions regarding the recreational fishing for longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks were paused on 29 January 2010, when these species were listed as migratory under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This was considered necessary to comply with the legal requirement under the act that specifies that species listed on appendices I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals be listed as migratory species. Our country has been part of this convention since 1991 and we contribute actively and constructively to international conservation efforts.

These species were included in Appendix II to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals due to concerns about populations of these species in the Northern Hemisphere, where overfishing has resulted in reduced numbers. Despite this, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the populations of these shark species in Australia are under the same level of threat as in the areas in the Northern Hemisphere that have caused their inclusion in Appendix II to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The result of their being listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is that it has effectively caused significant detrimental implications for recreational fishing because of the offence provisions that now apply. However, the problem cannot be resolved administratively or by regulation. The implication for commercial fisheries will be addressed through accreditation processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The changes proposed in the bill will ensure that recreational fishing activities in Australia will not be affected by the international changes to the protection of mako and porbeagle sharks. This is because the restrictions imposed by domestic legislation as a result of the international changes are not an appropriate response to the level of protection intended by the addition of these species to Appendix II of the convention. The independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Hawke review, examined the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act relating to migratory species and identified the fact that the indisputable intention of the convention is to differentiate between Appendix I and Appendix II species and, therefore, the level of protection required. Appendix I includes migratory species that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant proportion of their range. These animals should receive a very high level of protection under our national environmental laws. However, migratory species listed in Appendix II do not require the same amount of protection. These species are not endangered but have an unfavourable conservation status. Currently, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act does not distinguish between migratory species listed in Appendix I and migratory species listed in Appendix II, despite the fact that they are clearly intended to be treated differently.

In order to have this reflected in our legislation, changes need to be made to provisions in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Currently, once a species is listed in either appendix and then included in the list of migratory species established under the act, it is prohibited to kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move a listed migratory species in Commonwealth areas and to trade, keep or move a listed migratory species that has been taken in a Commonwealth area. This is not necessarily an appropriate response to the species listed in Appendix II. It is clear that changes should be made to amend this problem. The amendments in this bill are designed purely as a temporary measure to respond to this and to the issues identified by the Hawke review as they apply to mako and porbeagle sharks, until the government can develop and implement a formal response to the Hawke review.

It is important to remember that the government remains committed to shark conservation measures, both domestically and internationally, and will continue its active engagement in efforts under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. This bill will provide a narrow exception for recreational fishing for longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks to the offence provisions of part 13, division 2 of the act as the level of protection under the act is excessive in relation to the status of the species and their listings on Appendix II to the convention.

Our government also acknowledges, as it should, the social and cultural importance of recreational fishing to many, many Australians, and its economic benefit to some coastal communities. A prime example of this economic benefit is felt in my home electorate of Flynn in Central Queensland through the annual fishing competition held in Boyne Island-Tannum Sands, known as the ‘Boyne Tannum Hookup’. The hookup has been run for many years by volunteers and injects tens of thousands of dollars into the community as well as giving the money raised back to the community for charitable and other worthwhile purposes. I would like to say a big thankyou to Darryl Branthwaite and his crew from the Boyne Tannum Hookup. Fishing competitions such as this are a very important part of the year for both locals and the many people from out of town who come in droves to compete. I despise the thought that these restrictions, which are unwarranted and unnecessary, could have drastic negative implications for competitions like these now or in the future where mako and porbeagle sharks may be prized. Although this does not apply to the Boyne Tannum Hookup, where these types of fish are not weigh-ins, it is simply irrational to penalise people engaging in recreational fishing, and communities that hold fishing competitions, just because of an inaccurate reflection of our international obligations in our domestic legislation.

This bill will provide the interim measures necessary to ensure that international changes to the status of mako and porbeagles and the consequential listing of these species under the act will not affect recreational fishing activities in Australia. We, as the government, recognise the fact that the act as it currently stands causes unnecessary restrictive measures on species that are listed in appendix II of the convention. This bill will provide an exception to all offences under part 13, division 2 of the act to prevent people engaging in recreational fishing for longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagles being penalised.

This is the most logical action to take in order to respond effectively to an issue that has arisen from current legislation and has been identified by an independent review. There can be no justifiable argument against this bill because the changes in it aim to align our domestic legislation more accurately with our international obligations regarding restrictions to recreational fishing of these sharks. It is clear that this bill is a temporary method of achieving this to ensure that people who engage in recreational fishing for these species are not disadvantaged unnecessarily.

I rarely get to drop a line these days because of my commitments and public service to the people of Flynn. But I have spent a lifetime as a recreational fisher. I have worked on professional fishing boats as a deckie on tucker trips too, been out on many charter boats and spent many days and weeks with my mates searching for that elusive big one. He is out there somewhere. All recreational fishers are looking for him. That is the joy of the recreational fisher. I commend this bill to the House.