Tasmanians are fortunate to have such vast and diverse coastal areas to enjoy and they have a long association with living and recreating on the coast. However some recreational pursuits can be very damaging to coastal values in particular areas if not managed appropriately.
Community involvement is essential to achieving the protection and conservation of natural and cultural heritage along Tasmania's coastline. Many coastal areas are fortunate enough to have dedicated community groups of local volunteers that regularly care for the coastal environment.
For the broader community education, awareness-raising and the use of interpretive tools and products are important to encourage community stewardship of coastal areas. Involving the community in coastal management planning and decision-making processes will help to foster this stewardship.
Over-fishing and illegal fishing practices are obvious impacts, but the activities of recreational fishers can have various other impacts on the coast. Irresponsible boating practices can lead to the spread of marine pests and discharge of pollutants and litter into coastal waters; inappropriate access to fishing spots through dunes and beaches and ad-hoc launch sites exacerbates coastal erosion, spreads weeds and threatens wildlife such as breeding shorebirds.
What coastal land managers and recreational fishers can do to minimise harm:
- Fishing regulations have been developed to support sustainable fisheries. Refer to the Recreational Sea Fishing Guide released each November, which outlines the identification of key species, rules, seasons, catch limits and provides information on responsible fishing practices.
- Recreational gillnets are allowed in Tasmanian marine waters. Restrictions include closed areas, prohibition of setting recreational gillnets over night (except Macquarie Harbour), not setting for more than 2 to 6 hours depending on area. Fishers should be encouraged to stay in close proximity of their gear to avoid wildlife interactions.
- To reduce the risk of harming marine life fishers should avoid fishing and/or setting nets close to wildlife, rookeries and nesting sites. Fishers are encouraged to find out the locations from the Parks and Wildlife Service.
- Recreational fishers should take care to protect birds and other wildlife from hooks and fishing line. In particular avoid disposing of line, any monofilament or plastic bait bags - accidental or otherwise.
- Consider providing facilities for cleaning and gutting fish at suitable locations; otherwise provide information to encourage fishers to clean fish at home.
- Support efforts to inform the public of the human health issues associated with seafood collection and consumption, in particular shellfish.
Many Tasmanians have long enjoyed camping in coastal areas and some families have returned to the same sites annually for many years. Environmental knowledge and understanding of human impacts on coastal values has increased significantly over the years and camping practices have had to be modified to reflect this knowledge. Ongoing education of campers and provision of appropriate facilities is essential to minimise impacts from coastal camping.
Guidelines for Minimal Impact Camping
- Camping in coastal areas should be restricted to formed campsites. Keep camping equipment and vehicles within site boundaries. Many coastal campsites are located within reserved land and are managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service with strict guidelines about permissible activities depending on the status of the reserve.
- Dispose of waste properly, to minimise environmental impacts. Visitors should take all rubbish away with them or use rubbish receptacles if provided. Disposal of black water (toilet and kitchen waste water) into campground composting toilets will destroy the composting process. Dispose of black water only at facilities listed in the Caravan and holiday park guide to Tasmania. (Tourism Tasmania, n.d.)
- Do not remove or damage plants, animals, historic artefacts and rocks: they are protected.
- Do not cut or remove dead trees and branches for firewood or other purposes: they provide refuges and homes for wildlife.
- Do not disturb Aboriginal middens (shell and bone deposits), which are found in and around sand dunes, or remains of historic use such as huts, footings, walls and fences. These sites are protected.
- Avoid digging drains, channels or pits, they are destructive to the vegetation and landscape; and channel water which will increase erosion.
- Campfires are permitted in some camping areas (except on days of total fire ban) and usually only in fireplaces provided. Fires should not be left unattended and should be kept small. They must be extinguished fully with water before leaving. It is an offence to leave a fire unattended without fully extinguishing it. Total fire bans can be imposed at short notice - it is advisable to carry a fuel stove.
- Do not feed wildlife: inappropriate food can make them very ill and feeding discourages them from foraging for themselves. Maintain a respectful distance from all wildlife.
- Dogs and horses are permitted in some camping areas - check with the land manager for permission and conditions.
In the past, coastal access ways were often developed in an ad-hoc manner and often by adjacent landholders. Land managers need to work together and develop plans to ratify public access, to ensure protection of fragile or valuable environments. This involves identifying access points and undertaking public awareness (including signage) and management actions that control access in foreshore areas, to reduce erosion and degradation. This work should be undertaken in collaboration with local community care groups and in consultation with public users.
Designated coastal access should be appropriate for the area and consider the demographics of the area and the user groups. It might be necessary to consider ramps for disabled access. Many elderly people can use steps with hand rails but could not use ladder-and-chain-style access.
Access to beaches and coastal areas by 4WD vehicles, quad bikes and trail bikes can be extremely damaging to the coastal environment, leading to destruction of natural and cultural values. Aboriginal heritage sites, dune vegetation, dune stability and breeding shorebirds are all extremely vulnerable to vehicles on beaches.
Vehicles can spread weeds and diseases and cause severe erosion, and can lead to compaction of the sand, affecting the animals living within the sand (meiofauna) which are an important food source for seabirds and shorebirds. On popular beaches and dune systems, 4WD vehicles, quad bikes and trail bikes can also be dangerous to other beach users.
What coastal land managers can do:
- Consult with user groups and establish the reasons for 4WD access and the social context of the activity. Provide education about the impacts of vehicles on beaches and dunes through signage, newsletters and notices. Most importantly invite representatives of recreational groups to get involved in coastal management and encourage them to inform their members of coastal values, the risks associated with their activity and the best ways to minimise those risks.
- Review beaches with vehicle access and assess environmental impacts against social benefit. Consolidate vehicle access through dune systems and provide board-and-chain tracks to reduce dune erosion. Signage is essential on beaches where boat launching is permitted, to tell users to restrict vehicle access to the launch site.
- Enforcement of vehicle restrictions requires collaboration between all land managers, usually the Parks and Wildlife Service, and local council as well as Tasmania Police.
Coastal views are highly prized and enjoyed by Tasmanians. Developments and structures on the coast can degrade the visual appearance of the area. Sometimes local residents in coastal areas try to modify their own coastal view by illegally removing vegetation in adjacent coastal reserves.
View Field Maintenance
The visual appearance of the coast fosters a powerful sense of place within local communities, enriches recreational experiences and adds to enjoyment of coastal areas.
Planning for coastal development should consider the importance of maintaining coastal landscape views or view fields (the view of the coastline from another vantage point). There are very few prescriptive guidelines for view field maintenance in existing policy and legislation, so currently it is up to individual planning bodies to consider these issues when assessing development applications.
Illegal Removal of Vegetation
Some coastal foreshores have suffered the illegal removal of coastal vegetation by adjacent landowners, usually to open up coastal views. Removal of vegetation from any coastal foreshore can cause severe damage to these fragile ecosystems and lead to erosion and instability. In light of sea level rise, foreshore stability is increasingly important, as is protecting remnant coastal vegetation and ecosystems such as wetlands.
It is critical to educate the public about the value of coastal vegetation and ways in which they can care for their coastal areas. Law enforcement will also be needed where problems are occurring.
Walking dogs on beaches is an extremely popular recreational activity and many local councils have dog management plans that designate particular beaches for this. Dogs on beaches raise obvious health and safety concerns for other beach users that need to be managed; restrictions on dog access often apply to popular beaches during the summer months.
Dogs can also have significant impacts on coastal wildlife and should be totally excluded from some beaches where coastal values are sensitive, such as those where shorebirds breed.
Dogs leave behind scents that will impact on the behaviour of wildlife. Even the sight of a dog in the distance will stress shorebirds and other wildlife who recognise its shape as a predator. When dogs chase birds, the feeding time of the birds is reduced, affecting their ability to provide enough food for themselves and their young. Unsupervised dogs can eat shorebird eggs and attack and kill penguins, shearwaters and other wildlife.
Dog owners should be educated about coastal values and potential impacts of their dog in coastal areas. They should be encouraged to use beaches designated for dog-walking and obey any local restrictions, and should carry bags to collect dog faeces and dispose of these appropriately.
Community organisations such as Birds Tasmania, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, the Southern Coastcare Association of Tasmania and the Natural Resource Management (NRM) regional bodies have joined forces to deliver community awareness events such as 'Dog's Breakfasts' at popular beaches: dog owners and their pets are given a free BBQ and owners are educated about coastal values in their area and ways to minimise their dog's impact on these values.
For more information about any of these and other community values for the coast, please see Chapter 4
, Coastal Works Manual.