About a year ago local man Brian approached me, perplexed about why, over many years, no government department or minister has taken seriously the long-term environmental problems we face at Cockle Bay Beach.
Brian lives in Cockle Bay. He sees the beach every day from his home. He cares about his local community. He wants his grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to enjoy Cockle Bay as generations before have.
Cockle Bay Beach has one of the lowest numbers of cockles of all the beaches that have shellfish restrictions in place. Surveys that have been taken since 2011 have shown a marked downward trend in the number of cockles over the years.
While a 50-cockle seasonal limit is in place at the beach between May and September there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the limit is being ignored.
Brian challenged me to once again take up the effort of convincing the Minister of Fisheries to close Cockle Bay to all shellfish harvesting for at least five years, to allow the beach to recover.
I had walked that path before, unsuccessfully. When I was with the National Party, the National Minister of Fisheries at the time refused to act.
Like all big party MPs, I was required back then to put the party first and support our minister. As an independent voice I can now properly stand up for Botany and achieve real results.
And so I took up Brian’s challenge.
After months of collecting signatures for a petition, both online and in-person, as well as articles and billboards promoting the Cockle Bay cause, we delivered our petition before Christmas.
A few weeks ago the current Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash, called me. He had good news. Finally, some action was going to be taken.
The Minister let me know that, following our community efforts, he has ordered a new survey of the beach to take place in February.
Unless that survey shows an increase in the cockles at the beach, he said he will be taking serious management action. This will likely see a rahui or ban placed on the collecting of all shellfish.
Cockle Bay is finally being taken seriously and we will now see change.
Thank you to everyone who supported this petition and thank you, Brian. One person can make a difference.
Jami-Lee Ross, MP for Botany