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December 3, 2021

Downgraded protection for Cape Byron Marine Park

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The eastern side of Cape Byron and Tyagarah Beach have lost their sanctuary status and beach-based fishing will now be allowed (File photo).

Tyagarah Beach and East Cape Byron will now be permanently open to beach fishing after the state government downgraded their status from ‘sanctuary’ to ‘habitat protection’ zones.

The two areas were part of NSW Government’s decision to scrap top-level environmental protections to 10 of the state’s best marine habitats, also including Bateman’s Bay, Port Stephens and Coffs Harbour.

Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said the ruling effectively ‘halved the length of coastline with the highest level of environmental protection from 87km to just 43km’.

‘This decision is a blow for marine conservation and for coastal communities whose economies rely on marine parks and the presence of a healthy marine environment,’ she said.

The coalition government reduced protection by allowing line fishing from beaches and headlands in 30 marine sanctuaries along the NSW Coast in 2013 pending a review.

The ban was restored to 20 sanctuaries in 2014 while the status of the other 10 was the subject of a review that resulted in a decision last Friday to permanently reduce protections.

‘Marine sanctuaries are essential for protecting marine life and the coastal lifestyles that make NSW such a great place to live.  Many people who live in these regions will not thank the government for this decision,’ Ms Barham said.

‘Unfortunately, it appears Premier Berejiklian has again ignored scientific advice on an important conservation issue and made a decision for short-term political gain.’

Department defends process

But a DPI Fisheries spokesperson has defended the move.

Fisheries deputy director general Dr Geoff Allan said there were 6,600 submissions about the proposal.

‘Approximately one million people in NSW go out fishing at least once a year. It is a fun activity for the entire family, and supports regional communities,’ he said.

‘In providing their advice, the independent Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel used a threat and risk based approach to assess a range of factors relating to the impacts of recreational line fishing on ocean beaches and headlands, as well as consideration of the social values recreational fishing provides to the community.

‘A total of 43 km of the NSW coastline will remain in sanctuary zones.’

The zone will extend out to 100 metres from shore.

‘The rezoning follows the removal of the compliance amnesty from 20 other beach and headland sanctuary zones in December 2014. There is no longer an amnesty in place at any marine park, and sanctuary zone rules are being enforced,’ Dr Allan said.

Vessel-based fishing and spearfishing continue to be prohibited at all 30 ocean beach and headland sites and any other pre-existing restrictions including bag and size limits also continue to apply.’

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