Islands open up

OPINIONS are divided over the NSW Government's move to reduce the area of Solitary Islands Marine Park sanctuary zones by more than 5000 hectares.

The redefinition of boundaries comes less than three months after the former Keneally government expanded sanctuary zone areas from 12% to 19% of the park.

The proposed changes were introduced to parliament by Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson yesterday.

In revoking the boundaries introduced by the Keneally government, the O'Farrell government has committed to an independent scientific audit of the effectiveness of the existing zoning arrangements within marine parks.

Environment Minister Robyn Parker said after the audit there would be thorough community consultation before any future zoning plans for the marine park were implemented.

Professional Fishermen's Association Industry representative John Harrison said North Coast commercial fishermen applauded the revocation of the draconian March 1 boundary changes.

“These lockouts have impacted substantially on the commercial fishing industry and in turn the supply of seafood to the public,” he said.

“Proper and complete consultation with industry is needed to ensure that jobs and businesses are maintained, along with a balanced scientific approach to biodiversity and continuing long-term sustainable harvest of seafood.”

He said the industry welcomed the Government's scientific audit, claiming it could result in further reductions of no-take zones in marine parks.

“We also believe the proposed scientific audit of the state's marine parks will uncover a range of unjust and improper zoning arrangements introduced years ago,” Mr Harrison said.

The Greens and environmental groups have condemned the NSW Government's scaling back of marine park boundaries.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said the outlook for the NSW fishing industry was grim without the current marine park sanctuary zones.

“The Coalition is in denial about the huge body of evidence accumulated over decades behind the value of marine parks and sanctuary zones,” she said.

“The much-loved Australian pastime of fishing is at risk under the new Coalition Government because of its wholesale disregard for sound marine science.”

Nature Conservation Council chief executive Pepe Clarke said the NSW Government should abandon plans to wind back boundaries to 2002 levels.

“The zoning plans introduced earlier this year represent a strong balance between conservation, recreational fishing and commercial fishing needs,” he said.

“Rolling back the new zoning plans will place marine life and habitat at risk, create enormous confusion and is a great waste of taxpayers' money.”

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