MINISTER for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson and Minister for the Environment Robyn Parker last week announced decisions around the management of what were marine parks, now referred to as the NSW marine estate.
“The NSW Government is delivering on its election commitment for a common sense marine parks policy and is supporting the principal recommendations of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
The NSW Government is taking a new approach to protect the NSW marine estate, which includes coastal waters, estuaries and beaches:
Establishing two new advisory bodies, the Marine Estate Management Authority, to replace the existing Marine Parks Authority, and the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel;
Effective immediately there will be an amnesty allowing line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones with the exception of identified sites for the protection of threatened species.
All other recreational fishing restrictions including bag and size limits will apply. The Expert Knowledge Panel will undertake a six month assessment of recreational fishing access to these areas;
Undertaking threat and risk assessments for the NSW marine estate; and
Remaining committed to the moratorium on new marine parks, pending advice from the new Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel.
“The NSW Government’s vision is for a balance between economic growth, particularly in our regional communities, and conserving our marine ecosystems leading to a greater appreciation of its unique value,” Ms Parker said.
Associate Professor Bob Beeton, chairman of the Audit Panel, said the key recommendations for effective and sustainable management were captured in the Government’s response and will benefit recreational and commercial interests, marine biodiversity and the community.
“These changes will not adversely impact the commercial fishing industry, which is currently undergoing significant reform, and industry can take confidence that future decisions around access to resources will be undertaken in an independent and transparent manner,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“The average commercial catch from NSW wild fisheries over five years to 2010/11 was approximately 15,000 tonnes, the NSW Government expects this to continue in the foreseeable future notwithstanding unexpected circumstances.”
The Marine Estate Management Authority will replace the Marine Parks Authority and will be informed by the work of the Expert Knowledge Panel, providing independent advice across ecology, economics, and social sciences.
“I am pleased to announce two eminent individuals to lead the respective organisations who have extensive experience in public administration, natural resource management and economics. The independent chair of the Authority is Dr Wendy Craik and the independent chair of the Expert Knowledge Panel is Dr Andrew Stoeckel,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
The Authority will convene its first meeting in the coming weeks. Expressions of interest for the remaining Expert Knowledge Panel positions are now open.
For further information visit www.marine.nsw.gov.au
Narooma Port Committee welcomes changes
The Narooma Port Committee greeted last week’s announcement of the abolition of beach sanctuary zones within the Batemans Marine Park with a huge sigh of relief.
“Further we are pleased to hear the Marine Parks Authority will be abolished and there will be an immediate review of the zoning within the Batemans Marine Park is also of great importance,” chairman Philip Creagh said.
“The announcement that the beach sanctuary zones are to revert to line fishing zones is a victory for common sense.
“No longer will recreational fishing families be prosecuted for getting worms from Handkerchief beach or fishing off Fullers beach.
“Fishing families were made to feel guilty by the various extreme Green conservation groups and the Marine Parks Authority for wanting to teach their children to fish or gather bait responsibly on the magnificent beaches in our shire.”
Mr Creagh congratulated local member Andrew Constance, one of the founding members of the Narooma Port Committee, for “working tirelessly within Government to accomplish this important first step”.
“In the past six years since these sanctuary zones came into effect in Marine Parks within NSW, not one piece of research has been done into the effects of banishing recreational fishing from the beaches,” Mr Creagh said.
“The Marine Parks Authority produced science to claim that beach sanctuary zones, had beneficial effects, however, it was ably demonstrated by Professor Kearney that the science used was fraudulent.
“The former Labor Government, with Mr. McDonald at the helm of NSW Fisheries, breached the confidence of the people of NSW by listening to the rantings of the Greens with their ‘lock it up and lock ’em out’ mentality, rather than taking on board the more moderate scientific opinions of NSW Fisheries.”
Narooma Bowlo fishing Club president Dave Clark said for starters Nangudga Lake should be next to be reopened to the rec fishers.
“As for the sanctuary zones offshore like Fullers they should be opened to line fishing only and places like the island sanctuary zones on the east should be line and lure use only with no anchoring - all sounds so simple,” he said.
Nature Coast Marine Group mixed on reforms
The Nature Coast Marine Group says it supports much of what is in the government’s package of reforms for management of the marine estate.
NCMG president Jenny Edwards said the group supported the scientific audit, to which the government’s package is a response.
The group, however, concerned about the decision to allow line fishing in marine park sanctuary zones.
“We are pleased to see that the ministers refer to the government’s commitment to maintain the existing system of marine parks,” Mrs Edwards said.
“We also welcome their acceptance that sanctuary zones (where extractive activities including fishing are prohibited), have an important role in marine estate management.”
The establishment of the Marine Estate Management Authority would focus attention on the health of the oceans across all relevant government agencies, she said.
“It is sensible to aim for an integrated approach to managing marine waters along the whole of the coastline, as obviously what happens in one area affects others,” she said.
“The establishment of an Expert Knowledge Panel is another positive decision, as independent and transparent advice will give greater credibility and authority to future planning.
“The third strand of the package, the threat and risk assessment process, is another welcome proposal, as it will hopefully promote better information and education about threats to the marine environment through local and specific studies.”
The NCMG called on the government to ensure that adequate resources are provided to implement these proposals and all that flows from them.
“This includes the need for staffing in our local area to ensure effective management of the marine park, as well as funds for the research that will be necessary if there is to be good scientific evidence on which to base decisions,” she said.
While generally supportive of the package, the NCMG believes the hasty and ill-considered decision to allow line fishing on beaches and headlands tended to undermine the credibility of the rest of the package.
“The ministers appear to have no idea that there is a world of difference between the environment of the waters off a beach and waters off a headland – which is as much as between a desert and a rainforest,” she said.
“While the fish inhabiting waters off beaches are mostly highly mobile and are often schooling fish in large numbers, headlands are isolated and limiting habitats for the flora and fauna that is found there.
“The fish inhabiting them often have nowhere else to go. The removal of fish from these areas will undermine the integrity of the sanctuary zones that include them.
“This decision undermines ongoing scientific work to assess the effectiveness of sanctuary zones, as fishing off headlands may impact on research outcomes.”
Other environmental groups including Australian Marine Conservation Society and Nature Conservation Council of NSW were less complimentary of the changes putting out their own scathing statements.