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Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Page slammed over failure to support marine sanctuaries

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The cod hole at Julian Rocks, one of the most popular dive spots in the state could be under threat by state government moves to reduce protection in marine parks. Photo Blue Bay Divers
The cod hole at Julian Rocks, one of the most popular dive spots in the state, could be under threat by state government moves to reduce protection in marine parks. Photo bluebaydivers.com.au

Prominent north-coast ecologist Dailan Pugh has criticised local state MP Don Page for not being willing to ‘heed the science’ and stand up for local marine parks.

The broadside follows the release on Monday of a statement of support for the state’s marine parks after the government moved to allow amateur anglers to fish in breeding grounds and aggregation sites late last year.

The statement was signed by more than 220 of the nation’s marine scientists.

Last week Echonetdaily reported claims by the Nature Conservation Council that the state was set to abolish the marine park network carefully put in place over more than a decade.

Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily yesterday, ‘unfortunately the NSW government has shown it is deaf to scientific arguments and appears intent on demolishing NSW’s embryonic marine reserve network to return to an open-slather approach, with none of our precious marine environment to be spared from exploitive uses.

‘Our local member, Don Page, has shown that he is not willing to heed the science and stand up for reinstatement of protection for The Moat at Lennox Head, part of the coastline adjoining the Broken Head Nature Reserve, the dolphin nursery off Wategos, the sea adjacent to the shorebird nursery and roost at the mouth of Belongil Creek or part of the beach adjacent to the Tyagarah Nature Reserve,’ he said

‘With 96 per cent of our coastline already available for fishing I am disappointed that Don Page won’t even allow a measly four per cent to be put aside for conservation. I am particularly disgusted that he will not allow The Moat to be protected given its importance for families to explore the marine environment in a protected locality. Fish diversity, size and approachability all improve with exclusion of fishing. Surely our kids should be able to visit a few marine areas in their natural state,’ he added.

Mr Pugh said he was concerned the MP ‘also has his sights set on removing the limited protection for the Grey Nurse shark aggregation site and international dive site around Julian Rocks’.

Meanwhile, the state government has indicated that it will use a market research company to garner public feedback into its planned marine park changes.

Skirting the normal feedback methods, the government has instead employed Sweeney Research to conduct a range of focus groups, online surveys face-to-face interviews and field surveys.

Backward step

The eminent scientists’ statement reads in part, ‘it is now of significant concern to the marine science community that what was announced as a temporary lifting of restrictions on recreational fishing in sanctuary zones may become a permanent feature of marine parks management in this state. Such a move would represent a considerable step backwards in environmental awareness in the country’s most populous state and as such has drawn the attention of interstate and international marine scientists.

‘Sanctuary zones free of extractive activities, such as recreational fishing ie “no-take”, must be the cornerstone of marine conservation. Their prime purpose is the conservation of marine life and ecological processes, but there is increasing evidence from Australia and overseas that sanctuary zones can help reverse the decline in marine health, build the resilience of marine life to climate change, and serve as buffers against overharvest, which often occurs under conventional fisheries management.

‘The habitats in sanctuary zones off sandy beaches and rocky shores, where restrictions on recreational fishing have been temporarily lifted, are vital for many fish communities. These areas are also likely to be the most heavily exploited because of ease of access by fishers. The most recent data indicate that recreational fishers take a quarter or more of the catch in 11 of the state’s top-20 harvested species including those commonly found in beach/headland habitats such as whiting, flathead, bream, luderick, tailor, snapper, kingfish and leatherjackets.’

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  1. Has Don Page every stood up for anything worth fighting for? Not in the 10 years I’ve lived here. Look at his backflip on supporting the return of our local train service. Pfffft.

  2. Round and round the Mulberry bush we go and where the populist politics stops we don’t know. For anyone who is interested especially those whose ‘mate’ told them all about how big and healthy the fish are that are being caught in the no take zones, the following link might be worth a look – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112241.htm?goback=.gde_1809551_member_5825647385614766083#!

    The government has a choice – self interest or future interest, my kids deserve better than this.

  3. what a disgrace if the state government does not protect the our marine life, we know what happens when they start fishing again some people take undersize fish or just anything they catch. Don Page shame on you for not standing up for our marine life.

  4. A simple fact is that Don PAGE is a National!

    – he does not defend this region or the natural world!

    When was the last time you heard from this Minister of the NSW State government?

    He and his fellow Nationals, and the Liberals from Sydney they bow too, must be defeated in 2015!

  5. This is just pure scare-mongering, mis-information and “truthiness”. Could we please just have the tiniest bit of intellectual rigour in the Echo.

    What has happened is the State Govt has allowed line fishing off rocky headlands that were declared off limits when the marine park was set-up.

    That is a sensible compromise position for rec fishers to fish for fish species like tailor, bream, trevally etc etc that ARE NOT in spawning grounds but migratory in nature.

    These boundaries were completely arbitrary and ineffective for protecting these fish. The boundary was halfway along Lennox Headland. Whats the Point of that when a tailor is swimming from river mouths up to Fraser Island to spawn?
    Fish species need a whole of species, habitat protection approach including the previously mentioned slot limit harvesting-used very successfully with flathead- and closed seasons for breeding, as well as size and bag limits.

    Arbitrary sanctuary zones for migratory species are ineffective and do nothing but generate resentment which impairs greatly the social compact needed to implement genuine environmental reform. We’ve seen this already.

    Please go visit the Lennox Headland or rockfishing spots at Broken for yourself, check out the arbitrary nature of the sanctuary zones and observe the fishing effort for yourself.

    To repeat, line fishing off rocky headlands is a sensible compromise position which does nothing to harm the integrity of marine parks.

  6. Thanks Steve for a sensible explanation of the overdue move by a sensible state government. It was ridiculous to ban recreational fishing at theses beach and rock spots as there is NO proven scientific reason to actually keep those spots locked away from recreational fishing. Emotion and rhetoric is not science but hey! the Greens have infiltrated every system of decision making and media hype to get the desired attention.
    Down south at Lake Macquarie is a great example of how recreational fishing is sustainable/enjoyable and economically necessary. Australia is slowly waking up to this lot.

  7. Steve and Bob, you both seemed to have missed the point that 200 marine scientists are telling the government: A quote from Sydney Morning Herald:

    ‘David Booth, a professor of marine ecology at the Sydney’s University of Technology, said the risk was that allowing shore-based recreational fishing would open the way for spear-fishing and fishing from boats in the sanctuaries.
    “It’s the thin edge of the wedge that we’re worried about,” Professor Booth said.
    He added that scientists were surprised the government would open sanctuaries “without a shred of science” about the effects of the move, pledging only to do a risk assessment of the change.
    “It’s like saying, ‘let’s chop down all the trees and do an [environmental impact study].’ ”

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/scientists-tell-government-fishing-ban-in-marine-parks-must-be-reinstated-20140113-30qm6.html#ixzz2qcRKebUY

  8. Raw, I have a science background in Marine Biology. Both those statements are nothing but conjecture.

    Did the Govt or any scientific body have any idea of the rec fishing effort that was happening prior to the introduction of arbitrary boundaries -I can stand on one side of a rock and catch a fish but not the other- in the Cape Byron Marine Park?

    If not, how could they have any baseline data with which to measure the affect of the boundaries or of their removal? There is no data of rec fishing catch off the rocky headlands, so this is all pure politics. Not a shred of science in any of it.

    But go see for yourself. Go look at the Boundaries at Broken Head, Cape Byron or Lennox. Now tell me how those boundaries could possibly protect demersal/pelagic fish populations that are migratory?

    The Bundajalung understood it. The Boat Channel/Moat at Lennox is an ancient fish trap. When migratory schools of mullet/bream/tailor passed through they took what they needed and no more. We can learn to do the same.


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