16 December 2019

Batemans Marine Park changes labeled as reckless and unfounded

| Ian Campbell
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Weedy Sea Dragon. Photo: Nature Coast Marine Group Facebook.

Weedy Sea Dragon. Photo: Nature Coast Marine Group Facebook.

Conservation groups are outraged at the relaxation of rules within the protected waters of the Batemans Marine Park.

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance and NSW Agriculture Minister, Adam Marshall last week announced that five sites had been identified for increased access prior to the summer school holidays – Brou Lake (South), Clarks Bay (Freshwater Bay), Forsters Bay, Montague Island (East and South) and Nangudga Lake.

The changes include:

Brou Lake South
• Catch and release recreational fishing will now be permitted.

Montague Island South and East
• Recreational fishing activities will now be allowed (including line, spear, trap & net, hand haul prawn net).
• Fishing will be restricted to protect grey nurse sharks between 1 November and 30 April each year

Clarks Bay – Freshwater Bay and Forsters Bay
• Recreational fishing activities will now be allowed (including line, spear, trap & net, hand haul prawn net).

Nangudga Lake
• Recreational line fishing and prawning using a hand held scoop net will now be permitted.

Mr Constance also flagged further changes with a broader review of the Marine Park currently underway.

“Tragically a lot of these areas weren’t locked up for any sound ecological reason, meaning recreational fishers missed out simply because of senseless politics,” he says.

In response, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) and the Nature Coast Marine Group say there are no good reasons for the changes. Both groups are concerned that the widening back of the rules has happened prior to the bigger review of the Marine Park being completed or presented to the community.

“At a time when the community is demanding governments lift their game on environmental protection, Minister Marshall has taken a huge step backwards, removing protections from the breeding fish stocks that drive the productivity of our South Coast fisheries,” NPA Executive Officer Gary Dunnett says.

“Astonishingly, the Minister’s media release acknowledges that they are stripping protections before a review of the Batemans Marine Park management plan is completed. The Marine Estate Management Act has strict requirements for public consultation, yet here we have a Minister rushing to a dreadful decision before completing the statutory review triggered by his government.

“Sidestepping the statutory process shows that the Minister is unwilling to confront the science – these sanctuaries are essential to the health and productivity of our southern coasts.”

The Nature Coast Marine Group says it saw the changes coming and has been trying to stop the push by local member Andrew Constance over the last 12 months.

“Recreational fishing will henceforth be permitted in sanctuary zones at Montague Island, Wagonga Inlet, Brou Lake and Nangudga Lake,” spokesperson Bill Barker says.

“There are good reasons why these sanctuary zones exist. They allow for protection of biodiversity in the wide variety of habitats in the marine park, they promote conditions for the flourishing of marine flora and fauna and protect threatened species, including grey nurse sharks, black rockcod, shorebirds and seagrasses. All these values will now be undermined.”

“No scientific justification has been put forward for the changes, which in addition undermine the integrity of the zones as scientific reference areas.

“In addition, these cut backs to sanctuary zones have not been considered by the Batemans Marine Park Advisory Committee, on which we are represented, or any other forum representing the wider community.

“We are particularly disappointed because we met with staff from the offices of both Agriculture Minister Marshall and Environment Minister Kean in the past couple of months to express concern about the Constance proposals.

“Mr Marshall subsequently wrote to us to say that “any proposed change to sanctuary zones would need to be subject to public consultation for a minimum of two months as required by legislation.”

Mr Barker and the Nature Coast Marine Group are encouraging those concerned to write to the Member for Bega and NSW Agriculture Minister.

Batemans Marine Park extends from the most northerly point of Murramarang Beach near Bawley Point to the southern side of Wallaga Lake entrance at Murunna Point. For more check the DPI website.

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Graham McERlain4:32 pm 26 Dec 21

Why does Avenza Maps. The App Fisheries and Wildlife recommend as the guide to sanctuary areas still show Montague Island South and East, Clarks bay,
Freshwater bay and Forsters Bay as a sanctuary with all the original restrictions.

Susanne Page11:45 am 16 Aug 21

How could anyone say this area wss locked up for no good ecological reason? The Science is in. It has and will make a difference to the all organisms with in that zone.Protection of biodiversity is more important than ever.
We have to leave some things alone.
Who is chewing Andrew’s ear?

I feel that changes should be made to extend the fishing zones in Durras lake. It was severly impacted by professional fishers for many years, I feel that with the absence of the nets for the past years more area should be made available to recreational angling, catch and release, lower keeper totals could be a couple of restrictions, if necessary.

Something like this in times where stresses on our marine life are unprecedented is pretty irresponsible. And for no gain whatsoever. “Recreational fishers missed out”!? Really? You keep taking safe breeding grounds away from the marine environment, and fishers will miss out on a lot more than their Sunday morning catch pretty soon that’s for sure. One would think that people learn from environmental impacts that they (must, one would hope) see having hit Australia in recent years, learn from them, and feed them into a more sustainable decision making process. But obviously some people process such changes a lot slower than others. Let’s see whether the gain in votes from the fishers offsets the loss of votes from those who are capable of looking ahead a little.

Myf Thompson1:29 pm 19 Dec 19

A shameful decision illustrating how the public’s right to contribute to informed debate has been over ridden as irrelevant by short term political gain. What would an agriculture minister and a trams and trains minister know about our south coast marine park? The answer is – very little – because they won’t listen to the scientists and citizen scientists and the recreational fishers who know this area. Who is monitoring this ‘immediate’ change to former sanctuary zones? Where is the accountability?

Dorte Planert3:50 pm 17 Dec 19

it is proven to be beneficial to have safe breading grounds, that the depleated fish population can bounce back and that the amount, fishermen were able to catch in the overflow zones was larger than ever before

Jeff de Jager9:31 am 17 Dec 19

Mr Constance’s reference to “senseless politics” says it all!

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