New South Wales, Australia
Bag and size limits
Intertidal protected areas
New South Wales Fisheries
responsibilities under the Fisheries Management
Act 1994 cover not only fisheries management, including
the establishment of bag and size limits for certain
marine species, but also establishing and managing
two types of marine protected areas. Aquatic Reserves
are permanently designated areas where varying levels
of fishing are permitted. Intertidal Protected Areas
are areas of temporary fishing closure. Fisheries
Officers from NSW Fisheries police and enforce all
fisheries regulations (bag and size limits, illegal
fishing gear etc.) and reserves. The degree
of compliance is related to the Departments
enforcement and education efforts.
Bag and size limits
Bag limits were first introduced
in 1988, defining the volumes of intertidal invertebrates
that could be taken in NSW, a four page NSW Fisheries
document (Lynch and Prokop 1993) outlines current
bag and size limits for intertidal invertebrates.
The limits set in 1988, although generally obeyed,
were found to be ineffective in controlling harvesting
activities and have since been reduced. Some observers
consider that the limits are still too high to maintain
stocks of intertidal species. The main problem with
the regulations are that large groups of people
all collect from the same site on the same low tide.
Even if all of them collect within their legal limit
(which is not always the case), the cumulative impact
can be significant. Additionally, since many of
these groups are from non-English speaking backgrounds,
providing the necessary interpretation and education
material is difficult. Fisheries Officers experience
considerable difficulties with determining whether
these members of the public are aware of the regulations,
and with enforcing them. There have also been conflicts
between local residents concerned with the conservation
of intertidal flora and fauna and collectors, occasionally
leading to violence.
NSW Fisheries manages eight aquatic
reserves established under sections 194-197 of the
Fisheries Management Act 1994. They are permanently
designated sites, and cannot be revoked without
the approval of both houses of State parliament.
The majority was established in the early 1980s
following pressure from various local lobby groups.
Their size varies, but all but three reserves are
less than 80 hectares. One (Towra Point Aquatic
Reserve) has multiple zones, all the others are
generally no-take areas, but commercial
fishing is permitted in some reserves and not others.
There is potential for confusion among members of
the public over the scope of the regulations for
each reserve. NSW Fisheries is currently reviewing
each of the reserves to determine whether it is
possible to simplify the regulations and make each
reserve fully no-take (including no
Concern grew in the late 1980s
over the extent of harvesting intertidal invertebrates
on the majority of rock platforms in the Sydney
Metropolitan Region. This concern was community
driven, with supporting evidence from local Fisheries
Officers and researchers from local Universities.
NSW Fisheries released a discussion paper outlining
the problem and possible solutions for public comment
in 1991, and 107 submissions were received. One
option was the creation of protected areas
within which the collection of all intertidal invertebrates
was to be prohibited. This was the origin of Intertidal
Protected Areas (IPAs).
IPAs are a temporary fishing closure
under section 8 of the Fisheries Management Act
1994 and can be revoked at any time by the Minister
for Fisheries by written consent. They have a maximum
life of five years, after which time they are reviewed
and may be renewed for a further five years. Fourteen
IPAs within the Sydney Metropolitan region were
gazetted in July 1993, and have been renewed by
NSW Fisheries until 31 December 1999 to provide
time to review their location, enforcement, education,
effectiveness etc. The review should commence
at the end of 1998.
IPAs protect all rocky intertidal
habitats, from the mean high water mark to 10 metres
horizontally seaward of the mean low water mark.
The collection of all intertidal invertebrates (whether
for food or bait) is strictly prohibited within
IPAs. An exception is made for the collection of
abalone and rock lobsters, valuable commercial fishery
species that already have strict quotas and management
regimes in place. Fishing is permitted in IPAs provided
anglers bring their bait with them to the site.
IPAs are located between areas of unprotected rock
platforms, to allow anglers to collect bait locally.
Enforcement is carried out by NSW Fisheries Officers,
supplemented by support from several Local Government
or Council rangers who have limited authority to
enforce IPAs under the Fisheries Management Act.
The latter are involved in management as a result
of local ratepayers and Council concerns over
IPAs within their local jurisdictions.
Sydney University undertook a three
year study into the effectiveness of IPAs in the
Sydney Region, following their protection in 1993
(Chapman and Underwood 1997). The study did not
identify any changes in abundance or size-frequencies
of populations of particular species, nor changes
to the mid- and low-shore assemblages that could
be attributed to protection of these populations
in IPAs. Collection of animals in the two IPAs examined
and public knowledge about IPAs did not improve
during the study. Evidence was that the IPAs were
ineffectively protected. Declaration of an IPA made
no difference to the numbers of people foraging
and taking bait, nor to the numbers who knew that
this was no longer allowed. There was no public
education apart from the few small signs in the
IPAs. Provision of inspection or surveillance of
IPAs by NSW Fisheries did not appear to be effective,
possibly due to lack of resources. The overall conclusion
was that those who use the rocky shores as places
to kill animals for bait and food were not treating
IPAs as protected areas. The main reason for the
failure of the IPAs was considered to be the result
of limited, if any, enforcement and education effort
by NSW Fisheries.
One local Council in the Sydney
area developed a successful way of informing the
community about the need for IPAs and the role of
intertidal habitats, and spread its message to other
local government areas. "Project AWARE on
the Rocks" involves training a group of
interested community members about intertidal issues
in return for them conducting 20 hours of community
outreach work. NSW Fisheries provides written resource
materials and gives formal talks to the volunteers.
At no time are the volunteers involved in policing
or enforcement of the regulations but are involved
primarily in the education of the local community
about the local intertidal environment. The group
has also identified the origins of many of the ethnic
harvesters in the Sydney Region and is conducting
programmes to reach these communities.
The success of the IPAs and aquatic
reserves is very much reliant on the attitudes and
support of the local community (which is dependent
on education) and the availability of resources
to make sure that these areas are successful. If
the public are made aware of the reasons for closing
or protecting certain areas of the coast and are
involved in the process of identifying potential
areas they are more supportive of any measures that
are taken to ensure that protection is implemented.
The more successful IPAs are generally located in
local government areas where local residents and
the local council support protection of the local
intertidal environment, rangers assist with enforcement,
and NSW Fisheries officers are located sufficiently
close to deal with any breaches of the regulations.
Apart from the issue of ethnic
harvesters, the other main source of opposition
over aquatic reserves and IPAs is recreational anglers
perception that they are being targeted by fisheries
managers trying to dictate where they can and cannot
fish. Commercial fishermen only become concerned
where their fisheries are conducted in the subtidal
region immediately adjacent to intertidal areas.
There is a perception that environmental designations
may be a token effort to appease certain lobby groups
and members of the public. This may be overcome
if the closures are either permanent, or given sufficient
resources and commitment to ensure that they work
Acknowledgements: The above information
was provided by Michelle Perry, New South Wales
Fisheries, Sydney, Australia.