More than 300 people paddled into the water at Bar Beach in Narooma on Saturday (21 November) to peacefully protest the rezoning of the Batemans Marine Park.
The Save Batemans Sanctuaries environmental group claims it was one of the biggest community gatherings of its kind in the Eurobodalla region for years.
Families, fishers, traditional owners, scientists, surfers, kayakers, business, and ecotourism operators and conservationists were among those who paddled out on surfboards, kayaks and floaties.
Organiser Bill Barker said the turnout showed there was a “broad spectrum of Eurobodalla people” who are “overwhelmingly in favour of strong protection for the marine life of our area”.
Environmentalists have been outraged since NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall and Member for Bega Andrew Constance decided in December 2019 to relax rules in Batemans Marine Park to give recreational fishers more places to fish.
Protestors hoped the event would show the NSW Government and Mr Constance the support for the return of sanctuary protections in the marine park.
“Indeed, pretty well everyone agrees that our lifestyle, our economy and the well-being of future generations depends on a healthy environment, both marine and terrestrial,” Mr Barker said.
“It would be good if the government listened to this message and tried to facilitate a cooperative community-oriented approach. This would be a much better alternative to the short-term political decisions that have been foisted on the local area over recent years.”
The Save Batemans Sanctuaries community group promotes science that shows marine sanctuaries benefit marine ecosystems and produce more fish.
Speakers at the protest included science educator Laura Wells, Walbunja man and Native Title claimant Wally Stewart, local recreational fisher and underwater videographer Dave Rowland and Bodalla business owner and conservationist Fiona McCuaig.