There has been a chorus of opposition to the state government’s decision, announced yesterday, to open up the state’s marine parks for beach based recreational angling.
The move is part of a package of responses to the government’s recent independent scientific audit of parks, established soon after it came into power.
Fiona Maxwell, marine campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said, ‘Encouraging individuals to break the law is bizarre policy at play. Allowing recreational fishing in sanctuary zones flies against the fundamental principles of marine sanctuaries being safe havens for our marine life and goes against years of scientific evidence that show they work.’
The Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) director Professor Peter Steinberg said, ‘the application of existing science, as well as the generation of new science, will be particularly critical for two of the recommendations in the response… fishing from beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones, and the continued moratorium on new marine parks.’
And locally based ecologists have been even more forthcoming in their criticism of the decision.
Byron Bay ecologist Dailan Pugh said, ‘as usual the NSW government is claiming it will assess the impacts later, after they have already occurred’.
‘The NSW government is misrepresenting the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks recommendations. It did not recommend fishing in sanctuary zones; rather it recommended “that the current system of marine parks as established in NSW be maintained” and that “no-take zones are important”.’
SCU senior lecturer in fisheries biology and marine biology Dr Daniel Boucher says it appears the minister has ignored her own scientific audit. ‘The decision to open up all the coastal sanctuary zones to recreational fishing is not supported by the science,’ he says.
‘The science of marine parks would say we need reference areas that are free from all potential human impact that will serve as the long term reference against which we can measure impact,’ he told ABC local radio this morning.
The North Coast Environment Council spokesperson, and keen fisherman and diver, Mr John Jeayes, says, ‘this decision… by ministers Parker and Hodgkinson is appalling. It is clearly yet another advance to the Shooters and Fishers Party at the expense of the environment.
‘The precautionary principle of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 states that “Lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing a measure to prevent degradation of the environment where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage”.’
Impacts on Cape Byron
Mr Pugh said that for the Cape Byron Marine Park it will mean allowing fishing within sanctuary zones along the central section of Tyagarah Beach, around the mouth of Belongil Creek, around The Pass and Wategos Beach, along the rest of the headlands and beaches adjacent to the Broken Head Nature Reserve and in The Moat at Lennox Head.
‘It is particularly sad that The Moat is to be opened for fishing as this is an important place where people of all ages can recreate and closely experience our marine environment. The sanctuary around Belongil Creek was put in place to help conserve feeding resources for breeding shorebirds. The other areas provided small samples of our coast where natural processes were being restored.
‘Any proposal to open up the limited protected coastal areas for fishing is contrary to the scientific audit and should be part of a formal zoning review, not an ad hoc political decision based on misrepresentation of the government’s own expert advice.
‘The government’s continuing refusal to consider new marine parks is also contrary to the scientific audit’s recommendation for the creation of new parks within the Hawkesbury and Twofold Shelf marine bioregions.
‘Ms Hodgkinson has a cheek to complain about years of political interference and decisions based on poor or incomplete science by the previous Labor government, when this is exactly what she is doing,’ Mr Pugh said.