ENVIRONMENT: Proposed Sydney lockouts

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Image: Scott Thomas

JOHN Newbery discusses the history of the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority and outlines how Sydney fishos came to be facing these proposed mass lockouts.

ONCE there was a Marine Parks Authority in NSW that was created when the respective Fisheries and Environment Ministers did not get on… at all. They were from different factions in the same government. National Parks had long wanted to create a representative system of marine national parks (commonly referred to as MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) but NSW Fisheries maintained it should control what actually lived in these areas. So the Premier created an authority with the heads of both agencies as members, and said get on with it. And so they did.

They determined that the state should be divided horizontally so that each bioregion should have an MPA in it, plus one around Lord Howe Island. An accepted overseas model for what’s in an MPA was created, containing a mix of zones ranging from general use to complete protection, with percentage targets for how many of each type of zone. Consultations were held, arguments ensued, compromises were reached and there were enough “wins” for all players to get the MPAs established.

After a number of years, and in response to lobbying and whinging from winners and losers, the new government of the day decided to revisit the MPA question and consider whether the other side had got it right first time around. They commissioned a review, as governments do. The answer was, “yeah, sort of”, but let’s have a new improved Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) to guide future decisions.

Somewhere through all of this the idea of Sydney having its own, special MPA re-surfaced. The original bioregional model basically said that with an MPA off Port Stephens, and one off Jervis Bay, the bioregional protection needs were adequately covered, but some conservationists, dive operators and tourist-oriented local government officers were never happy with that. In fact, a hotchpotch protected areas grew up along the Sydney coast, all with different rules on what’s allowed to be done in each. Take a look at NSW DPI’s “Collecting animals and plants from rock platforms and sand flats around Sydney” online and prepare to be very confused.

Anyway, the pro-Sydney MPA advocates prevailed and the Hawkesbury Bioregion proposals are the result. This author got along to one “consultation” session which basically asked not if it was really needed, or what might be in it, but basically “tell us how much you like and value MPAs”.

And now, out of the blue, there are Google maps circulating showing the whole of Shelly Beach to North Head, Manly Cove, North Harbour, Dobroyd Head (in one continuous line) plus Long Reef as “favoured” no-take zones for this proposed MPA, which just seems to have evolved somehow.

All right, I’ll disclose: I’ve fished these areas for 60 years, as a jetty rat, a hyper active teenager, and now a senior citizen. There’s a mix of totally safe and highly adventurous spots covered by the proposals. A huge loss of resource, and for what real demonstrated need I’m not exactly sure.

NSW’s Recreational Fishing Alliance (NSWRFA) is advocating letters to the Premier and respective Ministers about this. If you’re an angler living between Newcastle and Wollongong, please think about participating as these aren’t the only areas being considered for closure.

Click here to see how the NSW RFA is working to save NSW anglers from fishing lockouts.

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