Fishing amnesty retained at some marine park beaches

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson and Minister for the Environment Rob Stokes have announced a decision on the future of line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands at 30 mainland marine park sanctuary sites in NSW.

Based on independent scientific advice and environmental, social and economic considerations, the NSW Government will:

  • retain the amnesty at 10 sites, which will be rezoned to allow this activity
  • immediately remove the amnesty at 20 sites, where sanctuary zone rules will again be enforced

In the Batemans Marine Park, sites to be rezoned to habitat protection zones where line fishing will be allowed are North Head, Congo Point South Beach, Mullimburra Point to Bingie Beach, Brou Beach and the beach and Bogola headland in the Bullengella Lake - Corunna Lake zone.

Sites to be returned to sanctuary zones where fishing is not allowed are Burrewarra (North), Burrewarra (South) and Broulee Island.

Ms Hodgkinson said the changes are consistent with the NSW Government’s new approach to management of the marine estate.

“The amnesty to allow shore-based recreational line fishing from 30 ocean beaches and headlands in marine park sanctuary zones was put in place in 2013 in response to the findings of the independent scientific audit of NSW marine parks,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The audit found that information was lacking with respect to some no-take zones, including ocean beaches.

“The amnesty was announced as a temporary measure, while a thorough risk assessment of the impact of these activities was undertaken.

“That assessment, completed by the independent Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, found that recreational shore-based line fishing was a low-risk activity at a number of locations, which will be rezoned to allow this activity.

“The panel’s findings have informed the NSW Government’s decision to retain the amnesty at 10 sites and lift it at 20 sites.”

Mr Stokes said that enforcement of sanctuary zone provisions at the 20 sites will recommence immediately.

“These areas will continue to be enjoyed for activities such as snorkelling and diving, as well as being used for scientific reference sites and educational purposes,” he said.

“A six-month advisory period will accompany the lifting of the amnesty; during this period recreational fishers found to be in breach of the rules will receive a caution however repeat offenders will be subject to standard compliance action.

“Risks to threatened fish and bird species in several areas will be reduced.”

Mr Stokes said there remained information gaps in relation to the impacts of this type of fishing in marine waters.

“To help fill these, the NSW Government will implement an enhanced data collection program so that fishing pressure and ecological condition can be more readily compared,” he said.

“This additional science is vital to inform future management decisions, including the development of the Marine Estate Management Strategy and forthcoming marine park planning pilots,” Mr Stokes said.

Further consideration of economic, social and ecological values will occur in each of the areas as part of planned reviews of management arrangements in each marine park.

Further information, including advice to the NSW Government from the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel and the Marine Estate Management Authority, can be found at www.marine.nsw.gov.au

Conservation group slams decision

The NSW Nature Conservation Council says protection for almost all marine sanctuaries in the Batemans Marine Park will be gutted after the government today turned its back on marine science and future generations.

“Today the Baird government has caved in to anti-conservation demands to wind back commonsense protections to safeguard marine life for the future,” said NCC Campaigns Director Daisy Barham.

“The Batemans Marine Park is a core part of the community. The marine park protects our marine life so future generations will be able to experience a healthy coastal environment.”

In March 2013, the government buckled to pressure from the Shooters and Fishers Party to allow recreational line fishing from the shore in protected marine sanctuaries.

The decision was to be assessed after six months. Today’s announcement is the long-awaited result of that assessment.

In the Bateman’s Marine Park, two marine sanctuaries will be restored to protection and five will be rezoned through community consultation in 2015.

“If the government is honest about a scientific and consultative process to rezone parts of the marine park, I am confident marine sanctuaries will be restored to full protection,” Ms Barham said.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that sanctuary zones are essential to protect our marine life. They are also important assets for coastal communities.

“Science here in the Batemans Marine Park shows marine sanctuaries have many more fish than neighbouring sites that are not protected. Marine sanctuaries are an investment in the health of our seas.

“The Batemans Marine Park is home to incredible marine life, like the colourful cuttlefish, fur seal and the much-loved blue groper.

“Marine sanctuaries are like national parks on land – they protect our most incredible underwater environments so we can experience abundant marine life.

“More than 93 per cent of the community supports marine sanctuaries, including more than 90 per cent of people who like to fish. Protecting sanctuaries is a win for marine life, local residents and coastal economies.

“More than 220 marine scientists have called on the government to restore marine sanctuaries. The government has ignored the weight of science today by further delaying protecting these areas.”

Greens weigh in on sanctuary zones

Greens NSW MP and Spokesperson for the Marine Environment, Dr Mehreen Faruqi has called the partial lifting of the amnesty for fishing in marine parks sanctuary zones too little, too late.

Dr Faruqi said:

“Quite frankly, this decision to revoke the fishing amnesty in just two thirds of sanctuary zones is too little, too late. The Government has spent the last almost twenty months quite deliberately dithering on this issue to the detriment of the marine environment.

"Whilst I welcome the removal of the amnesty on many beaches, around a third of these protected areas will now have fishing permanently allowed, including more than 60% of Batemans Marine Park sanctuary zones which will be devastating for the marine ecology of the area.

“The science says that allowing fishing in these sanctuary zones for the last 19 months will have significantly undermined the marine park ecology.

“This is in effect a decision to remove a third of our precious sanctuary zones from the marine parks system.

“The Government proclaims it is sticking to the science, but perhaps they should have thought about that before declaring the amnesty, not after.

“Jervis Bay Marine Park, for example, will have all its sanctuary zones rightly restored, meaning there was absolutely no reason to allow fishing there, and to undermine the marine ecology, in the first place.

“The Greens strenuously opposed giving the Minister the power to alter sanctuary zones for exactly these reasons. At the time, Labor voted against our amendment that would have prevented the Minister from reducing the size of sanctuary zones” Dr Faruqi concluded.

Narooma Port Committee welcomes rezoning

THE Narooma Port Committee has welcomed the news that all but two beach sanctuary zones within the Batemans Marine Park have been re-zoned “Habitat Protection” zones.

“Two years after the NSW Government announced that beach sanctuary zones would be in a state of ‘amnesty’, Friday’s announcement that nearly all the beach zones within the Batemans Marine Park are to be re-zoned as Habitat Protection zones is a victory for science and common sense,” said Dr Philip Creagh, chairman of the Narooma Port Committee.

“The extreme green anti-fishing groups, such as the National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Council and even the Nature Coast Marine Group, with their anti-fishing rhetoric, will be horrified at this decision.

“At last science is starting to overtake the former Marine Parks Authority mantra of ‘lock it up and lock ‘em out’ and hopefully when the re-zoning of the Batemans Marine Park starts in 2015 the full extent of the illogical zoning used by the Labor/Green Government in 2006 will be fully realised.”

Dr Creagh continued: “There is no doubt the sanctuary zoning within the Batemans Marine Park made this region an unattractive option for recreational fishing families who were prosecuted for getting worms from Handkerchief beach or fishing off Fullers beach.

“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.

“Beach sanctuary zones were explained to the public by the Marine Parks Authority as a necessity in order to protect marine biodiversity.

“The one science paper that was presented to support this claim was from South Africa.

“It was shown to have falsified data, exaggerated claims and was completely irrelevant to the Batemans Marine Park … no-one within the Marine Parks Authority has had to answer for this travesty as yet.”

Local Member Andrew Constance, one of the founding members of the Narooma Port Committee, worked tirelessly within Government to accomplish the removal of these beach sanctuary zones. On behalf of all our members we congratulate him.

“The Narooma Port Committee has lobbied hard on behalf of all those likely to be affected by the unscientific fishing closures imposed on us six years ago by the former Labor Government.

“As chairman of the Committee I wish to thank those members, together with the Coastal Rights Association, who have assisted ably with their time and efforts.”