Groups call for rezoning inquiry

COFFS Harbour’s Deep Sea Fishing Club and recreational fishing body Ecofishers have called for an inquiry into the recent rezonings in the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Spokesman Geoff Parker said commercial and recreational anglers had put forward a large volume of the 6519 submissions to the review yet overall their opinions had been ignored.

“After the zoning plan’s release, fishermen at the deep sea fishing club were dismayed,” Mr Parker said.

“Despite a consultation process our opinions and submissions have been ignored and this is evident on the re-drawn maps and the changes to sanctuary zones. Clearly this government is anti-fishing.

“Yet again we have been denied access to traditional fishing grounds, the most concerning are the new grey nurse shark protection measures around South Solitary Island.

“The lighthouse is the prime fishing spot off Coffs Harbour, but from March 1st, the only way to fish for pelagic species where they congregate off the island will be via fly fishing or hard-bodied lures, not bait or live baits.

“There will be just a small portion on the south-western end of the island where bait fishing can continue and without doubt this will severely hurt Coffs Harbour as a tourist fishing destination.

“By doing this the State Government has created an endangered species and it’s called the recreational angler.”

The Department of Environment Climate Change and Water (DECCW) Director General, Lisa Corbyn, said even though sanctuary zones would rise from 12 to 19 per cent, other zoning changes were a win for local anglers.

“More than 80 per cent of all marine parks will still be outside the sanctuary zones and remain available for recreational fishing,” Ms Corbyn said.

However, Ecofishers claims this is political spin because recreational anglers only fish a small percentage of the marine park, reef bottom areas mainly around the islands which are restricted by sanctuary zones.

Despite the complaints of anglers, conservation groups argue the need for fishing bans, pointing to photographs of endangered grey nurse sharks with fishing hooks and traces hanging from their mouths.

Ms Corbyn said the range and extent of research conducted in the Solitary Islands Marine Park particularly since 2004 underpins the zoning changes.

“New seabed mapping techniques helped discover new and very valuable seabed habitats in the deeper parts of the park – habitats which have now been included in new sanctuary zones,” she said.

Coffs Harbour Greens candidate Cr Rodney Degens said sanctuary zones would allow fish to re-stock.

“The truly harsh criticism thrown at our marine parks reflects both a stubborn refusal, on one hand, to acknowledge how desperate the state of the world’s fish stocks really are, and on the other hand sheer desperation on which, the continuation of a way of life, it all depends,” Cr Degens said.

“The fishing industry, once a booming industry has been in decline in Coffs Harbour for the past 30 years. The need for bigger and bigger boats, for further and longer trips to reliable fishing grounds, the evidence is overwhelming. We need to recreate a situation where the past bounty can be restored.”

He called for greater consideration for aquaculture ventures locally.

“The need for leadership with respect to our fishing industry in Coffs Harbour in particular is palpable and it is at a government level where this leadership is lacking. It is a vote for the greens that is a vote for sustainable fishing,” Cr Degens said.

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