North Coast professional fishermen are facing tough times.
North Coast professional fishermen are facing tough times.

Fishermen fear being locked out

CONSULTATIONS between the Commonwealth and the Northern Rivers fishing industry on two new marine parks have hit a squall.

Suspicious industry members are drawing parallels between a meeting last week and the bitter process that led to the creation of the Cape Byron Marine Park.

Byron Bay Deep Sea Fishing Club president Ken Smith said commercial and recreational fishers, along with representatives from fishing co-ops and charter boat operators, were given few details about the proposed deepwater parks at a meeting with Federal Environment Department officers last Wednesday night.

The Federal Government is looking at forming new marine parks around Australia to meet international obligations to protect a representative sample of the marine ecosystems.

The parks being considered off the Tweed and Clarence coasts would start three nautical miles offshore and stretch east a total of 80 nautical miles.

Mr Smith said his club was not opposed to marine parks, but feared his members would end up being locked out of popular fishing spots, something he said happened in the formation of the Cape Byron park.

NSW Eco-Fishers president Ken Thurlow, of Byron Bay, said people got angry at the meeting when the department officer could not tell them precisely what the park was intended to protect.

He said the officer told them the department had to protect a variety of marine environments.

However, Mr Thurlow said the Government could easily do that by protecting pristine examples of the same environments within the proposed park past the 100 nautical mile mark.

He said those areas were too far out to sea for recreational fishers and local commercial fishers. .

A department spokeswoman said the groups were ‘being encouraged' to provide their comments by mid-July.

She confirmed the department aimed to have a draft plan in place by early next year, but the release of that draft would be followed by another 90-day consultation period.



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