THE Marine Park Authority has released its highly controversial Solitary Islands Marine Park zoning plan.
Professional fishers have had their livelihoods spared after the State Government abandoned an outright marine park ban on prawn trawling but access to commercial fishing grounds has been down-scaled.
Recreational angler groups, meanwhile, are outraged that sanctuary zones will increase from 12 to 19 per cent of the marine park, despite the fact some ‘lock out’ zones will be opened to fishing.
Ecofishers has attacked the State Government for rubber-stamping the plan.
“This is a pure act of bastardry, a desperate move by a dying government,” outspoken Ecofishers CEO Ken Thurlow said. “It cannot be justified scientifically, socially, economically or environmentally.
“Already marine scientists are expressing grave concerns that floodwaters and sediments will smother the corals in the Government’s marine park and all the current Government does is ban fishing.
“The Coffs Coast community has every reason to be outraged at this insulting announcement,” Mr Thurlow said in a media statement.
The Marine Parks Authority’s improved zoning plan takes effect on March 1.
Under the plan, marine habitats will be better protected, prawn trawling will continue in a reduced area of the park, and recreational angling access will be improved at three key spots.
More than 80 per cent of the marine park will remain open to recreational fishing.
Key fishing locations at Bare Bluff, South West Solitary Island, Minnie Water Back Beach, offshore of the Woolgoolga/Arrawarra region, and east of North Solitary Island have been made available, or remain available, for fishing.
Director General of the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water (DECCW) and MPA Member, Lisa Corbyn, said the new zoning plans were developed based on research findings, outcomes of the 2009 zoning plan review and community input.
“Zoning reviews are required under the Marine Parks Act initially after five years and then at 10-year intervals,” Ms Corbyn said.
“They provide an opportunity to consider new information, including feedback on how the park is operating and to determine whether conservation and sustainable use objectives for each park are being met.”
Consultation on the draft zoning plan for the Solitary Islands Marine Park was extensive with 42 stakeholder meetings attended by more than 350 people. A total of 6519 submissions were received during the three-month period.
“The MPA has listened to marine park users and following consultation with stakeholders and the local advisory committee, changes have been made to the consultation draft zoning plan in response to community feedback, local experience and the best-available science,” Ms Corbyn said.
“In response to concerns about proposals in the draft to remove all commercial trawling from the park within two years, the new zoning plan allows trawling to remain in a key corridor near North Solitary Island and key whiting grounds closer to shore.”
Industry & investment NSW will administer a $1.5 million voluntary commercial fishery buy-out program funded by the Environmental Trust to offset reduced access for prawn trawling and trap and line fishing.
This move is designed to stop increased fishing pressure on areas outside the marine park.
The plan can be viewed in full on the Marine Park Authority website.
In tomorrow’s Advocate, commercial fishers speak about the impact the zoning plan will have on Coffs Harbour’s $15 million seafood industry.
REVISED SOLITARY ISLAND MARINE PARK ZONING PLAN
- Sanctuary zones will increase from 8650 hectares (12% of park) to 14,000 hectares (19% of park), – 700 hectares less than the draft zoning plan.
- The Central sanctuary zone includes additional intermediate reef habitat and the new deepwater sanctuary includes, deep reef and deep soft sediment habitats, not included in the current plan.
- Recreational anglers and spearfishers will have improved access at key sites including Bare Bluff and South West Solitary (Groper) Island all year round, as well as an extra 500m at Minnie Water Back Beach and a section of reef at North West Rock.
- Prawn trawling will not be prohibited in the park within two years as proposed in the draft.
- An important fishing ground for trawling near North Solitary Island and key whiting grounds closer to shore will remain accessible.
- The area of general use zones where trawling can occur will be reduced to 13 per cent of the park to further reduce ecological impacts of trawling.
- A package of initiatives to monitor ecological impacts and the sustainability of trawling in the future including mandatory use of GPS vessel monitoring systems is also being developed, consistent with the Ocean Trawl Fishery Management Strategy and environmental impact assessment.
- Local Aboriginal people will benefit from the inclusion of important cultural sites in three new Aboriginal Special Purpose Zones at the Corindi River, Corindi Rock Platform and Red Rock Beach.
- Commercial beach haulers will benefit from increased access on beaches at Arrawarra and Sandy Beach, and changed access at Station Creek Beach.
- All marine park users will benefit from changes that lead to straight line boundaries as opposed to the previous rounded boundaries, which will make it easier for users to identify and comply with zones.
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