Connector Newsletter Issue 37

Protecting the Ramsar Values of Western Port: Carbon neutral fishing

April 11, 2023

Photo credit: Daniel Hall

By Stephen Brend- Project officer

As you are no doubt aware, virtually every activity carries with it a carbon footprint.  Achieving net zero means reducing that footprint as much as possible and then off-setting the elements that can’t be cut out.  Recently, the Biosphere Foundation has been considering the carbon footprint of recreational fishing and how that can be reduced.  From the outset, let me make it clear, we are not against fishing.  Far from it.  Recreational angling is an important element in the sustainable use and development of Western Port.  Nevertheless, it is in everyone’s interest to minimise any environmental impact.

There are some obvious carbon emissions: travel to the launch site; engine fuel; refrigeration.  All of these can be tackled in the same way as anything else involving an internal combustion engine and the electricity grid.  For fishing, however, there was one standout source of emission and that is damage to seagrass meadows, predominately through anchor damage but also from boats missing the navigable channels at low tide.  Individually, the impact may not be great but, given the thousands of boats that visit Western Port, the collective impact may be significant.  So how to stop it?

One idea we had was to see if the act of anchoring could also be used to replant the seagrasses.  Imagine a little hessian sack filled with sand and seed attached to the anchor line.  When the anchor hit the bottom, the sack would detach, and the seed could take root.  We would need to test the idea in practice, but it has some appeal.  For the fishers, it would mean they would be adding fish habitat every time they fished plus the amount of carbon being absorbed by the seagrasses wouldn’t change.

Another intriguing but more expensive idea is stopping anchoring all together.  There are now small electric engines, connected to a GPS system, that will keep a boat in the same spot without ever needing to drop anchor.

Our sense is that will be a bit too high-tech and costly for most people.  Still, it is good to know the ideas are out there.

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