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Keep our marine life out of strife! (Territorial Reef Fish in Western Australia)

Media Release

2 December 2002

Coastcare Week 2002

Australian marine legends and Coastcare Week Ambassadors, Ron and Valerie Taylor, today called on all West Australians to conserve and protect threatened marine species or risk losing them forever.

The Taylors issued the call as part of Coastcare Week (1 -7 December), which is drawing attention to the plight of Australia's threatened and vulnerable marine species in a new campaign — 'The Coast is our Home'.

The West Australian Coastcare community is encouraging recreational anglers to focus on sustainably catching pelagic fish, which are not territorial and under threat. (Catches should remain within established bag limits).

Ron and Valerie Taylor have been world-wide pioneers for marine education for over 50 years. They filmed the live shark sequences in the blockbuster movie 'Jaws' for Steven Spielberg in the 1970's and made a series of hit television programs about marine life.

The Taylors have worked tirelessly for many years to protect marine species including Marine Turtles, the Grey Nurse Shark, Seals and the Great White Shark. Now they are helping Coastcare increase community awareness about protecting threatened fish species in Western Australia.

According to Ron Taylor, recreational fishing is a favoured leisure pastime for many Australians, but there is growing concern about the considerable decrease in overall fish numbers.

"Coastcare is asking all recreational anglers to 'prefer pelagic' when fishing and target fish that are not territorial," Mr Taylor said.

"In Western Australia, five species of fish stand out as being threatened. The Red Emporer and Coral Trout (both coastal reef dependent species in the north), the Baldchin that occurs from Busselton through to Coral Bay, the Western Blue Groper that is found all around the south coast of WA up to the Abrolhos, and the Queen Snapper found from Shark Bay through to the South Coast.

"Around populated centres, such as Perth, Bunbury, Albany, Geraldton, Exmouth and Port Hedland, these species are becoming more difficult to find. This is particularly so around Perth where fishing pressure is greatest because the population is higher there, and anglers generally have easy access to the preferred habitat of these fish.

"To prefer pelagic is to prefer to catch a fish that is more abundant, breeds more often and in greater numbers and has a shorter life. By fishing for pelagic fish such as Australian Herring, Trevally, Kingfish, Mackerel and Sardines, recreational anglers will give other fish a chance to recover their populations."

Valerie Taylor, who was awarded the 2002 Australian Senior Achiever of the Year for marine conservation said to prefer pelagic is to help conserve territorial reef fish which are easy targets for most anglers and which are under threat from overfishing.

"It also helps to keep our reef ecology intact and reproducing at a rate that is sustainable over the long term," Ms Taylor said.

Both the Baldchin and Blue Groper are understudied in Western Australia and little is known about their ecology or ability to restock after fishing pressure. Baldchins are endemic to Western Australia and appear to have a life span of about 20 years while Blue's may live for more than 40 years.

"Western Blue Gropers are very curious about divers and boats making them easy prey for many anglers and spearfishers. Unfortunately this 'personality' trait is leading to their demise," Ms Taylor said.

According to Ron Taylor, Coastcare is something we all need to be part of.

"This year's Coastcare Week campaign aims to significantly lift awareness about the very real threats our marine species are facing. We also want to highlight what people can do in the community to protect these species.

"We know relatively little about the ocean whereas we know so much about animals that live on the land. We simply do not know the real number of threatened marine species. We do not even know the level of rarity of most marine species.

"However, what we have observed is a whole range of marine creatures just aren't around in the same numbers because of the impact of development and over fishing," Mr Taylor said.

WA Coastcare Coordinator Martin Heller said over fishing of certain species is a problem not confined to Western Australia and many anglers are finding that certain fish species are not as plentiful as they have been in the past.

"It is up to individual anglers to develop a sense of responsibility for the impacts they may be having on territorial fish," Mr Heller said.

"Concern is greatest for those species that have a slow growth rate, low reproductive rate and are territorial or a limited range species."

Coastcare is a program of the Commonwealth Government's Natural Heritage Trust, in partnership with State/Territory and Local Governments.

For more information on Coastcare or to join a Coastcare group, please call Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 or visit the web site at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/coastcare

Further Media Information:

Interviews with Ron & Valerie Taylor, contact Ross Woodward or Jessica Morrow from Media Key on (03) 9787 5844.

Media in WA can also contact Martin Heller direct by calling 08 9264 7834.

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