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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

South Coast swaps out marine sanctuaries for fishing zones

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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

Scout Wallen

Vital sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park are set to be scrapped to accommodate for more recreational fishing.

The NSW Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall announced that these changes have created five new recreational fishing areas in the marine park.

‘The Greens and Labor locked up 85 percent of the region’s best fishing grounds with the stroke of a pen,’ said Mr Constance.

‘Tragically a lot of these areas weren’t locked up for any sound ecological reason, meaning recreational fishers missed out simply because of senseless politics.’

National outrage

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has expressed outrage to these changes.

NPA Executive Officer Gary Dunnett said that this is a huge step backwards for the government who are hiding from the acute challenges facing our environment. 

‘Just how big a hint does the government need before they accept that the survival of our coasts, rivers and wetlands are at risk?’ said Mr Dunnet

These changes have been released before a review of the Batemans Marine Park management plan has been completed completed.

‘Sidestepping the statutory process shows that the Minister is unwilling to confront the science – these sanctuaries are essential to the health and productivity of our southern coasts,’ said Mr Dunnet. 

What would it look like in Byron?

Byron Bay marine biologist, Mary Gardner, said that if such changes were to reach the Byron shire it would have detrimental consequences on tourism and marine life. 

‘Sanctuary zones mean that there aren’t any fishing pressures, such as extra boats, people, lines, litter and debris,’ said Ms Gardner.

‘Similar changes would cause a huge disruption to holidaying and tourism that is already thriving.’

Ms Gardner is also worried that any change to our local marine sanctuaries would alter the behaviour of the local marine life. 

The female Osprey has fishing line tangled around its body and foot and a hook in its wing. Photo Byron Vibe.

‘Thanks to the patterns of behaviour maintained by the sanctuary, animals would become sitting ducks to be hunted,’ she said. 

‘This type of long term protection takes time; if you break open the sanctuary, its like smashing your piggy bank before its full.’

An increase in recreational fishing would put pressure on local conservation groups to aid injured marine life. 

‘In Ballina, Sea Bird rescue are already at capacity dealing with fishing-based injuries to birds and turtles,’ Ms Gardner said.

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