Reactions to

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance and Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall with recreational fishers at Batemans Bay. Picture: Supplied
Member for Bega, Andrew Constance and Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall with recreational fishers at Batemans Bay. Picture: Supplied

Yesterday's announcement of five new fishing zones in the Batemans Marine Park has shocked some groups and delighted others.

The five sites identified for increased access were Brou Lake (South), Clarks Bay (Freshwater Bay), Forsters Bay, Montague Island (East and South) and Nangudga Lake.

Member for Bega Andrew Constance said the sites were "low-hanging fruit and areas where it makes sense to wind back restrictions on recreational fishing activities".

"Today's announcement will provide immediate access to these areas before school holidays start and we see tourists and families heading out for some quality fishing," he said. "A broader review of the Batemans Marine Park is ongoing and will provide government with key information about management of the park going forward. I want to see a marine park that balances recreational, tourism and conservation values."

He said it was tragic "a lot of these areas weren't locked up for any sound ecological reason, meaning recreational fishers missed out". "The Greens and Labor locked up 85 per cent of the region's best fishing grounds with the stroke of a pen, which was an absolute body blow to our community's recreational fishers," Mr Constance said.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said fishing was one of the state's iconic pastimes.

"As minister, I'm keen to support our recreational fishing industry, which generates $3.4 billion in economic output each year," Mr Marshall said. "These newly created zones within the Batemans Marine Park will allow families to access more fishing areas ahead of summer school holidays."

Nature Coast Marine Group 'appalled'

The outgoing president of Nature Coast Marine Group is "appalled" the new zones were created.

"I'm just appalled and dismayed by this," Nature Coast's Bill Barker said. "There's been no consultation with the community."

Mr Barker said there was no consultation with the Marine Park Advisory Committee as the terms of previous members were up, and new members had not yet been appointed.

The five sites identified for increased access were Brou Lake (South), Clarks Bay (Freshwater Bay), Forsters Bay, Montague Island (East and South) and Nangudga Lake.

Mr Barker said winding back conservation measures in the waters around Montague Island was "just vandalism".

"Montague Island is an internationally-renowned conservation area," he said. "I don't know what effect it will have - that is part of the problem. There has been no scientific study of what impact these changes will have."

He had concerns about the "procedure". "It is legally required for there to be a two-month consultation period before any changes can be made to marine park zoning," he said.

In August, Mr Barker wrote to Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall: "I urge you to maintain the existing comprehensive process the government has set up to review the management of the (NSW) Marine Estate, which includes the development of a new management plan for the Batemans Marine Park," Mr Barker said. "The Marine Estate review process has been under way for over eight years; involving legislation, organisational restructuring, extensive documentation, meetings and workshops, public consultation and preparation of submissions."

He expected consultation measures to be implemented over the "coming months" but was "dismayed" the rezoning proposal was decided by the government to be dealt with separately.

In a written response, Mr Marshall said Mr Constance had announced in February the government would fast-track consultation on the marine park sanctuary zones.

"The fast-tracked consultation on the proposed changes to sanctuary zones in the four areas and the more comprehensive review of the overall marine park are linked, however they will be run concurrently to ensure consideration of the sanctuary zone changes as soon as possible," Mr Marshall said. "Any proposed change to sanctuary zones in those four areas would need to be subject to public consultation for a minimum of two months as required by legislation."

Mr Barker said the new fishing zones announcement "completely cuts across that process", "What's been announced obviously doesn't involve any consultation," Mr Barker said.

Narooma Port Committee welcomes announcement

On the southern end of the shire, Narooma Port Committee chairperson Phillip Creagh welcomed Mr Constance's announcement.

He said it allowed the "statutory two-month consultation period to take place before regulations can be modified by NSW Parliament".

"The five zones are in the area around Narooma and include Brou Lake South (catch and release only), Wagonga Inlet, Nangudga Inlet and the south east sanctuary zone at Montague Island will be converted to Habitat Protection zones, allowing recreational fishing but still preventing destructive sea bed trawling," Mr Creagh said.

"In particular the Nangudga Inlet 'no take zone' has banished prawn fishing for families for the past 13 years, with absolutely no scientific or conservation outcome. The adjacent caravan park will be pleased to see family fishing returned to the activities available.

"Rather than targeting recreational line fishing it is pleasing to see the government is following principles laid out by the Marine Estate Management Authority's pursuit of identifying, and rectifying, sources of pollution and environmental damage to the marine environment."

Justin Field MP says move is 'anti-science'

Independent Member of NSW Parliament, Justin Field, also slammed the government's announcement.

He said it was "anti-science" and "anti-environment".

"The Environment Minister, Matt Kean, has been all over the news over the last 24 hours saying that he will listen to the science - well the science is clear that marine sanctuaries are the best protection for the marine environment," Mr Field said.

"This decision will undermine the entire marine park network across the state and stall any progress in protecting our marine ecosystems."

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