Solitary Island Marine Park.
Solitary Island Marine Park.

Marine Park plans abolished

THE highly controversial Solitary Island Marine Park zonings introduced in the final days of the Keneally Government have been revoked in State Parliament after just two months.

The O’Farrell Government yesterday honoured a pre-election commitment abolishing the fishing sanctuary zone changes made to the Solitary Island and Jervis Bay Marine Parks on March 1.

The motion of Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson was passed, resulting in fishing zones reverting to the marine park maps introduced in 2002.

Environment Minister Robyn Parker said an independent scientific audit of marine parks would follow.

Outraged marine conservation and green groups claimed the government’s attack on the environment was a denial of huge bodies of marine science.

Recreational and commercial fishing groups welcomed the move, saying the “fishing lock-outs were based on politics and not science” and in stark contrast to community consultation.

Anglers can once again fish the northern ends of South and North Solitary islands and the rock platform of Diggers Camp, but will forfeit access to Bare Bluff, which was reopened to fishing in March.

The Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative’s Shane Geary said it was a relief for the 150 local families associated with the fishing fleet, currently trawling prawns off Newcastle and Queensland.

“It’s also a good thing for consumers here in Coffs Harbour that we, as a community, have access to our sustainable seafood resource. The important thing is that we get the right balance and leave the politics out of the issue,” Mr Geary said.

Geoff Parker of the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing said there needs to be valuable community consultation involving all users of the marine park.

"I’d like to see Minister Hodgkinson on site here in Coffs Harbour to hear first-hand from actual users the contentious issues of the Solitary Island Marine Park so she does not make the same mistakes as previous Labor ministers,” Geoff Parker, Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club.

John Harrison of the Professional Fishermen’s Association said proper and complete consultation with industry was needed to maintain a balanced scientific approach to biodiversity.

Voicing the concern of environmental groups, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann condemned the move to overturn the policy which increased sanctuary zones from 12% to 19% of the marine park.

“Without sanctuary zones, the NSW fishing industry has a grim outlook,” Ms Faehrmann 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,” she said. 

Coffs Harbour MP, Andrew Fraser, said overall the changes were welcomed in Coffs Harbour.

"It is my belief that minor changes to the current zoning will appease all sections of the community,” Mr Fraser said. 

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