Economist: Keep NSW marine parks for at least 15 years

A FORMER World Bank economist has called on the Federal Government to keep marine parks on the New South Wales' coast for at least 15 years before abandoning the protected areas.

In a report for the Centre for Policy Development, Fellow Caroline Hoisington wrote marine parks in NSW had not been in place long enough to determine the environmental benefits.

The parks, which have mostly been in place for between six and 11 years, aim to protect valuable marine areas from over-fishing, shipping and other impacts of human activity.

But the protection zones have been under scrutiny in recent months by both the state and federal governments, amid concerns of the "lock-out" of fishers from the areas.

The federal government is also reconsidering the national marine parks network, put in place by the previous government across Australia's oceans.

Ms Hoisington wrote that the parks off the NSW coast were, in ecological terms, "still in their infancy", also arguing they were already paying dividends to local communities through tourism.

The paper argues the Solitary Island and Jervis Bay marine parks brought a 20% increase to local business turnover and $2.4 million into the local regions, respectively.

"Marine parks have become essential infrastructure for regional economies. As long as investment in the parks is maintained, benefits will continue to increase over years and even decades," Ms Hoisington said.

Despite concerns the protected areas lock out fishers from vital grounds, Ms Hoisington said recreational and commercial fishers could actually benefit from the protected zones.

"European studies have shown that for each year a sanctuary zone is in place, the number and/or size of commercially valuable fish increased by 8% compared to surrounding fished areas," she said.

Ms Hoisington said sport fishers could also see "bigger and better catches immediately", due to reduced competition from the commercial industry.

The report has recommended the state government should not make any changes to marine parks until 15 years after they are first established, to make informed decisions about the impacts of the parks.

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