Save the sanctuaries

Many in the Byron Shire community will be alarmed to know that the sanctuary zones within Cape Byron Marine Park are under imminent threat from the NSW government. Plans are afoot to permanently allow recreational fishing activities back into these precious waters, which include the rocky headlands and beaches around Cape Byron, Wategos, The Pass and Tallow. Julian Rocks may be next.

These areas provide vital habitat for a diversity of marine species, including dolphins, rays, turtles and fish; allowing them to feed and reach sexual maturity without fishing pressure. Removal of these sanctuary zones will also damage the economy of Byron Bay, where many local eco-tourism businesses, including surf instructors, and dive and kayak operators, have built enterprises based on the integrity of Cape Byron Marine Park and its marine wildlife.

Recreational fishing is an enjoyable pastime, but we are already able to fish in 93 per cent of NSW waters. Even most recreational fishers support marine sanctuaries, with a recent Galaxy Research survey revealing that 91 per cent of recreational fishers back sanctuaries and only one in five people support the plan to wind back marine protections.

It’s vital that we set aside certain areas for conservation and rejuvenation of fish populations. This is supported by science, with over 220 marine scientists recently making a joint statement confirming that allowing recreational fishing in sanctuary zones will severely undermine NSW’s marine park network.

Last weekend, 200 community members gathered at Main Beach, Byron Bay, to express their support for our marine sanctuaries. It’s time the local member for Ballina Don Page stood with the community and called on his NSW government colleagues to abandon this controversial plan before it is approved.

Graeme Williams, Mullumbimby



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