“The announcement of only 17.75% protection for marine life in the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park is a gutless decision by the NSW Government, making the Park in essence a ‘paper park’,” says Greens candidate for Newcastle, Cr Michael Osborne.
“Minister Macdonald has obviously caved in to pressure from wealthy game fishermen rather than thinking of the long-term viability of the commercial and recreational fishing sector of the area.
“At least half of all submissions received by the Government indicated that people supported more than 20% in sanctuary area within the Park. This decision therefore not only goes expressly against the wishes of the community but is woefully inadequate in protecting marine wildlife and ensuring benefits for tourism and fishing interests,” Cr Osborne said.
“The area protected in sanctuary zones has gone backwards, with 20% in the draft and now only 17.75% protected in the final zonings,” said Charmian Eckersley, Greens candidate for Port Stephens.
“The Grey Nurse Shark, a critically endangered species, predicted to be extinct within decades unless protected, completely misses out on protection at Latitude Rock, and even Broughton Island is not properly protected despite it being one of the critical habitats of this harmless species.
“The NSW Government cannot claim to have created a proper Marine Park while it leaves a critically endangered species susceptible to further hook and line deaths.
“Conservation groups, in line with international science objectives have been calling for up to half of the MarinePark in sanctuary zone. This would have achieved a real balance between fishing and conservation interests. Instead we have a ‘paper park’ where almost half is still open to industrial commercial fishing practices,” Ms Eckersley said
“Sanctuaries are proven around the world and in NSW to work in protecting marine biodiversity, replenishing depleted fish stocks, encouraging eco-tourism to the area, and ensuring a sustainable commercial and recreational fishing industry,” Cr Osborne said.