The Animal Welfare Reform – Discussion Paper is now open for public consultation. Apparently, there has been community consultation to come up with this discussion paper but this is news to me. If you read the start of the discussion paper, you can see that only a narrow group of stakeholders were consulted. Although this paper has the potential to impact recreational fishing, no one in the recreational fishing sector was consulted in the drafting of this Discussion Paper.
The paper proposes replacing existing animal welfare laws under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, Animal Research Act 1985 and Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 with one new piece of legislation.
Proposal 3 in the Discussion Paper seeks to expand the definition of animals for the purposes of the new Act to include crustaceans and cephalopods (Octopuses, squids). The proposal is only supposed to cover this for preparation of food or offering of consumption and not include fishing. To ensure that the lawful activity of fishing is not unintentionally affected by this change, the NSW Government will also introduce a provision will also be introduced that clarifies that using a live fish, cephalopod or decapod crustacean as bait is not an offence (see Proposal 8).
Proposal 8 is to include a defence for ‘using a live fish, decapod crustacean or cephalopod as bait or as a lure to take, or attempt to take, fish’ so as to not unintentionally impact on recreational fishing activities. However, it would be in everyone’s interest to read this carefully to ensure water tight protection for recreational fishing activities. We should be vigilant to ensure there are no impacts on recreational fishing activities (whether unintended or otherwise).
While it appears on face value of the Discussion Paper that restricting or banning recreational fishing practices is not on the NSW Government’s agenda, it is on agenda of the Animal Justice Party. The Animal Justice Party has the same number of Upper House Members as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, and there is a risk that the NSW Government may seek to appease the Animal Justice Party to get their votes in the Upper House on other issues.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance of New South Wales, with whom our Club is affiliated, will also lodge a submission on behalf of recreational anglers, raising the following points:
- The RFA is concerned that the unintended consequences to recreational fishing would need to be further discussed so the new laws truly focus on reflecting the intent of the policy proposals.
- It is still not clear how the intended purpose of the laws and explaining how the content of the laws will achieve this without further discussion with groups like the RFA to ensure the legal activity of recreational fishing is not impacted.
- The RFA is also concerned that the stakeholders engaged in the drafting of the Paper does NOT provide a balanced stakeholder representation.
The Canberra Fisherman's Club has lodged its own submission that largely mirrors the RFA's submission which you can access here.
The NSW Government will use your comments and feedback on this Discussion Paper to refine the proposals and inform the drafting of the new animal welfare legislation. There will be further rounds of consultation as the NSW Government develops the regulations and standards to support the implementation of the new Act.
Submissions are due by 17 September 2021.