The NSW government and local MP Don Page have failed to respond to calls from scientists to restore protections to marine sanctuary zones following advice that fishery resources were at risk of ‘significant degradation’.
Last month the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) wrote to the government urging it reinstate the restrictions to shore-based fishing in the sanctuaries, arguing it not only put fish stocks at risk but also prevented adequate scientific assessment of the zones as management tools.
Local conservationist Dailan Pugh has called on Ballina MP Don Page to intervene saying that while Cape Byron Marine Park represented only 5 per cent of the northern rivers coastline, it was crucial for scientists to assess the effectiveness of no fishing zones.
‘The NSW government stresses that “evidence based decision making” is critical in managing the marine estate. The scientific evidence is that protection should be restored to places such as the Belongil shorebird nesting and roosting area, the critical habitat for dolphins at Wategos and the unique snorkelling haven of The Moat,’ he said.
‘Don Page must heed the science and restore protection to our marine sanctuary zones.’
But Echonetdaily’s requests for comment from Mr Page have not received a response.
The AMSA, a professional society of over 1000 members nationwide from universities and government agencies ‘committed to understanding and protecting marine resources’, wrote to the primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson and environment minister Robyn Parker last month urging them to reconsider the amnesty on recreational fishing restrictions in sanctuary zones.
‘The government has chosen to lift current restrictions on recreational fishing without any evidence that the current management strategy is ineffective or that its removal will not have detrimental effects on the marine environment,’ AMSA NSW president Will Figueira said.
‘Furthermore, in allowing fishing from ocean beaches and headlands the government will prevent appropriate monitoring programs from being established which are required to provide the necessary data for making “evidence based decisions” on the efficacy of sanctuary zones as effective management tools in NSW.
‘The actions of the government in opening up these sanctuary zones to recreational fishing are at odds with the precautionary principle and place NSW fisheries resources at risk of significant degradation.’
Mr Pugh said the sanctuary zones within the Cape Byron Marine Park encompassed only 9.6km of the 200km of coast north from the Solitary Islands Marine Park to the Queensland border.
He said there were five key areas of coastal sanctuaries including Belongil, The Pass to Wategos, The Moat (Bream Hole) to Lennox Head, 3.6km of the beach adjacent to Tyagarah Nature Reserve and 1.8km incorporating Kings and Brays beaches and the intervening headland adjacent to the Broken Head Nature Reserve.