Fishing off Clarence in assessment

CONTROVERSY surrounding the creation of new marine reserves off the Clarence coast has been hosed down by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Speaking in response to media reports about a petition organised by Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker, a department spokeswoman sought to clarify that the ‘areas for further assessment’ (AFAs) announced in March were not proposed marine reserves.

Rather, she said, these AFAs were the focus of current consultations and future marine reserves would be located within these areas.

“The purpose of the consultation process currently under way is to get a better understanding of how industry and the community use these areas so that areas of high importance economically or for recreational use can be avoided where possible when the Government creates new marine reserves,” the department statement said.

“Within these marine reserves, some areas will be highly protected, or ‘no-take’ areas, other areas will be multiple use and allow for activities like rec and commercial fishing to continue.”

The planning process is taking place in Commonwealth waters which are from three nautical miles out to about 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Mr Hartsuyker’s petition says the Government plans to ‘prevent commercial and recreational fishing in waters off the NSW North Coast’.

‘We ask the House of Representatives to ensure that no government unnecessarily locks up waters without the support of comprehensive scientific evidence and that marine reserves should strike a balance between good environmental outcomes and community needs.’

Mr Hartsuyker said yesterday he had been approached by recreational and commercial fishers plus tourist operators stretching from the Clarence to Port Macquarie.

“They are concerned what the State and Federal Governments are proposing to do in waters off the NSW North Coast,” he said.

“One only has to look at what the NSW Labor Government is doing in the Solitary Islands Marine Park to understand what Labor’s agenda is on fishing.”

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