COMMENT: JB Marine Park reversal disappointing

THE move last week by NSW Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson to reverse “polically motivated” changes to the Jervis Bay Marine Park is disappointing and against the best interests of local and visiting anglers.

The fact is that the changes made to the JBMP under the zoning review last year were positive and overwhelmingly supported by anglers. The JB park is completely different, environmentally, physically and geographically, to the Solitary Islands Marine Park, where the recent rezoning changes were seen as detrimental to angling. Instead of acting unilaterally, the Minister should have shown some discretion and moved to fix the SIMP issues while leaving JB alone. A bit of quiet consultation probably wouldn’t have gone astray here …

Unfortunately, the Minister didn’t seem to realise that local anglers worked closely with JBMP managers to ensure the new zoning arrangements improved fishing access while maximising environmental outcomes.

The general consensus when the new plan was announced earlier this year was that it was a win-win for all concerned. So it is frustrating to see all that hard work go down the drain. Hodgkinson’s ill-advised decision will result in significant inconvenience and confusion for anglers in the Jervis Bay region.

That said, it’s not hard to see that Hodgkinson and her cohorts in the newly-elected O’Farrell Government are trying to do the right thing by NSW’s 1 million anglers. The marine parks issue has caused considerable angst amongst coastal communities during the past decade. Anglers and their families realise that our precious marine eco-systems need protection, and are willing to work with government to ensure long-term sustainability of our fish resources. Unfortunately, the debate to date has been dominated by extremists who favour a “lock it up” mentality. There’s little doubt that the new Government wants to adopt a more flexible approach to the whole marine parks issue and it will thus be interesting to see what the scientific audit of marine parks that Hodgkinson has recently ordered will recommend.

The current system of marine parks in NSW is conservative, inflexible, compromised and cumbersome. Let’s hope that Hodgkinson and her team inject some fresh thinking into the debate and come up with ideas that protect what needs protecting while allowing responsible and well-managed recreational fishing to prosper and develop.

Jim Harnwell is the editor and publisher of Fishing World and has lived and fished in the Jervis Bay region all his life.

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