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.
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.’