CHANGES to the way marine parks in NSW are operated have been warmly welcomed by recreational fishing groups but slammed by outraged environment organisations.
The marine park restructure, announced on Tuesday by Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson and Environment Minister Robyn Parker, will re-allow recreational line fishing in existing beach and headland sanctuary zones while a six-month assessment is carried out.
The Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA) said NSW now led the way in marine park management.
“We … welcome the decision to immediately allow line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones and the assessment of recreational fishing access to these areas by the Expert Knowledge Panel in coming months,” AFTA CEO Allan Hansard said.
“This process established by the NSW Government sets a good public policy precedent for marine park management for other states and for the federal Government.”
A spokesman for Keep Australia Fishing said banning fishing from beaches was a “nonsensical” policy that had no scientific validity.
“The creation of sanctuary zones on beaches was a politically driven policy that should never have been implemented. There is no science to linking biodiversity loss or habitat destruction to someone standing on a beach wetting a line. It is good to see this sort of nonsensical clap trap given the treatment it deserves.”
While the marine park announcement has the support of the recreational fishing sector, green groups are “appalled” by the NSW Government’s decision.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the Government was “encouraging illegal fishing” while NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said the move to “open sanctuary zones off beaches and coastal headlands to recreational fishing is reckless and simply pandering to an extreme element of the recreational fishing lobby”.
The ministers rejected these criticisms, saying decisions on the management of the NSW marine estate would now be based on science and in the long-term interest of community, marine ecosystems and industry.
“The NSW Government is delivering on its election commitment for a common sense marine parks policy and is supporting the principal recommendations of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks,” the ministers said.
As well as allowing rec fishing back into some sanctuary zones, the changes will see the establishment of two new advisory bodies, the Marine Estate Management Authority, which will replace the existing Marine Parks Authority, and the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel, which will advise the authority.
Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Brown commended the Government on its new approach to management of the marine estate.
“This has been a long time coming, but it should be beneficial to all stakeholders in NSW,” he said.
“The Government has put in enormous work to develop this new approach to managing our coastal waters, estuaries and beaches.
“I think the Government has struck the right balance in its approach. It is widely accepted by recreational fishers and industry that the decisions made by the previous government, influenced by the Greens, were not based on scientific evidence.”
Grass roots angling organisations joined national bodies in praising the NSW Government’s marine park policies.
Philip Creagh, the chairman of the Narooma Port Committee, said he greeted “with a huge sigh of relief” the announcement on Tuesday that “illogical” beach fishing bans would be abolished.
“The announcement that the beach sanctuary zones are to revert to line fishing zones is a victory for common sense … Fishing families were made to feel guilty by the various extreme Green conservation groups and the Marine Parks Authority for wanting to teach their children to fish or gather bait responsibly,” Dr Creagh said.
Land-based game anglers, the sportfishing sub-group hardest hit by coastal sanctuary zones, also welcomed the marine parks changes.
Australian Land Based Anglers Association (ALBAA) spokesman Craig Wilson told Fisho “the guys from the club are tripping out over this announcement. We can’t quite believe it”.
Wilson said ALBAA was “obviously in favour of the announcement, especially that the Government actually listened to us, to ANSA and to recreational fishers”.
“We applaud the Government’s leadership on recognising the importance of land based fishing access for our ocean. It is the line in the sand that we have been asking for.”