Urgent calls to reinstate marine sanctuary safety

Janine Kitson

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has renewed its call for the NSW Government to end an amnesty on illegal fishing in marine sanctuaries.

Nature Conservation Council marine campaigner Daisy Barham said: “Fishing in a marine sanctuary is like hunting in a national park.

“Marine sanctuaries are the national parks of the sea. They were established to provide safe havens for our extraordinary marine wildlife and their underwater habitat.

“Premier O’Farrell acted correctly and courageously when he blocked plans to allow amateur shooters to roam free in our national parks. Now, we are urging him to hold the line on protection for our marine life.”

More than 200 marine scientists have called on the O’Farrell Government to reinstate a ban on recreational fishing in coastal waters with high conservation values.

However, the Government has also announced that it intends to review the zoning arrangements for marine parks, starting with the Solitary Islands and Batemans marine parks.

“Given the Government’s poor track record on marine conservation we are deeply concerned about the proposed review of marine park zoning plans,” Ms Barham said.

“Over the past three years, Premier O’Farrell has led a succession of backward steps on marine conservation in our state, removing important protections for threatened marine species and their habitat.

“This summer, our marine life has less protection than at any time in the past decade.

“Premier O’Farrell is out of step with the strong community support for marine conservation. More than 85 per cent of NSW residents support marine protected areas even if it means excluding fishing activities.

“Marine parks are vital assets for coastal communities like Coffs Harbour, Batemans Bay and Port Stephens which rely on healthy seas for long-term industries such as tourism, fishing and recreation.

“Fishers and non-fishers alike agree that important marine habitats should be protected in sanctuaries free from fishing.”

NSW has six multiple-use marine parks (Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Port Stephens-Great Lakes, Jervis Bay, Batemans and Lord Howe). Marine parks allow for different uses in different zones; the majority permit recreational fishing and some types of commercial fishing.

Only 7 per cent of NSW coastal waters are protected in no-take marine sanctuaries.

Sanctuary areas are proven to increase the abundance, diversity and size of marine life within their boundaries and can help protect against the impacts of climate change.

Janine Kitson is Federation’s delegate to the NSW Nature Conservation Council (www.nccnsw.org.au) and is on leave without pay.