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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Tweed-Byron marine reserve ‘ignored’

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The federal government’s plan to set up the world’s largest network of marine parks has been slammed for ignoring a call to set up a Tweed-Byron Marine Reserve or to protect a nationally significant offshore canyon.

Federal environment minister Tony Burke last week announced the plan to create 44 marine parks covering 3.1 million square kilometres, or a third of Australian waters, including the Coral Sea and the southwest coast of Western Australia. The reserves limit fishing and some oil and gas exploration.

The minister will make a final decision on the plan following a 60-day consultation process.

But leading north coast environmentalist Dailan Pugh says NSW and the north coast have missed out badly.

He told Echonetdaily that 4,500 submissions supporting the proposed Tweed-Byron Marine Reserve were ignored and the Tweed Canyon ‘is to get no protection at all’.

Mr Pugh said that unique marine environments such as the Britannia and Queensland volcanic seamounts, 170km offshore from the Tweed and Byron coasts, were only given limited protection as habitat protection zones in the Central Eastern Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

‘These unique places should have been fully protected,’ he said.

‘By failing to deliver a reasonable outcome for waters off NSW, our federal government members have badly let down their constituents and the numerous unique species and ecosystems of our waters that have been severely depleted and are in urgent need of protection.  They have committed many of our most vulnerable species and ecosystems to oblivion.’

Mr Pugh said that while the reserve plan had ‘delivered a major step towards the urgently needed comprehensive, adequate and representative marine reserve system’ for NSW it had ‘unfortunately, delivered an appalling outcome’.

‘While 26 per cent of the 1.5 million square kilometres Temperate East Marine Region is to be included in reserves, only four per cent is to be fully protected in marine national park zones.

‘Despite less than one per cent of the 7,100 submissions to the draft plan supporting the same or less protection than the Commonwealth proposed, it has ignored 99 per cent of submissions by reducing the area of marine national park zones and rezoning the meagre 1.6 per cent of the continental shelf proposed for reserves as special-purpose zones that have virtually no effect on any activity.

‘These are reserves in name only.  This leaves a meagre 0.01 per cent of the continental shelf, around two grey nurse aggregation sites that are proposed for marine national park zones, as all that is to be protected.

‘In reducing protection for the continental shelf the Commonwealth has not only ignored the public, but also the scientific organisations CSIRO, Australian Museum, Australian Marine Sciences Association, NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee and Australian Coral Reef Society, who all identified the particular need to increase protection for the continental shelf and upper slope where high biodiversity values are threatened by high human impacts.’


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  1. The interesting thing about the new proposed ocean reserves worldwide is that science shows they need to be much bigger if they are to meet the goal of returning the seas to health and abundance. Then the process of creating the reserves includes many interests at the table, from stakeholders groups to blue ribbon panels and ‘biostitutes’ who will come up with any study results you want so they can get paid.

    Then the reserves wind up whittled down to almost being non-existent, as the activist in this story says. But the real kicker comes when you try to enforce one of the reserves against polluters, drillers, miners, fishers, whatever. We must all work together to put global teeth into the marine protected areas!


    Joey Racano, Director
    Ocean Outfall Group

  2. How pathetic ae these governemnts wic ae actually just stoe onts fo the business community. They come ot us the average citizen every four years as they act out the chaade whihc we call democacy then spend the next fou years rorting, selling out and geneally beng eveyhitng opposite to what they promised to be. It is as if they ahve taken Owells 1984 as the template for their behaviour and followed it with the kind of corrupt zealotrry that one reads about during the Crusades. We ae living in an idiocracy adminstered by bought souls and incompetent buffoons.

  3. Joey Racano and the Ocean Outfall Group are based in America and this comment shows little knowledge of the true situation in Australian.
    We have the third largest fishing zone in the world and the second largest shelf area, but the lowest overall fishery harvest rate at just over 3% of the global average. Claims made that Australian waters need protecting from our rapidly dwindling Commercial Fishing Industry (which are in decline, not from overfishing but from the most costly and restrictive management in the world) is unjustified and reprehensible.
    There are large health benefits from increased seafood consumption for a broad range of neurological, cardio?vascular and immune related conditions. Translated into reduced health care costs, it could save Australia billions of dollars per year not to mention the improved quality of life for millions of Australians. As we import over 80% of our seafood from much more heavily fished resources elsewhere we should be looking at how to expand our underutilised fisheries and aquaculture potentials. The Greens policy, however, is aimed only at finding more imaginary reasons to close them down. Fisheries have by far the lowest ecological impact of any form of food production.
    The Biodiversity Treaty, which has been cited as requiring the declaration of MPA’s, also requires that traditional uses be protected. Recreational and commercial fishing are traditional uses going back to first settlement by both indigenous and colonial peoples. Large no?take MPAs (which seem to target prime marine food resource areas) violates such rights and with the additional MPA’s desired by green groups we would be approaching two-thirds of the global total of MPA area. Failing to properly utilise our extensive resources is not genuine conservation but simply poor management. Every resource we lock up puts more pressure on others and makes balance more difficult. An unnecessary restriction in one place becomes an increased impact somewhere else.
    All Australians are paying the price of gross resource mismanagement in our cost of living, our health, our freedom and eventually the wellbeing of our communities and nation.


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