CALLS for a five-year ban on creating new marine parks in NSW have sparked debate on the health of fish stocks and the effectiveness of marine protection.
Fishing groups have welcomed the parliamentary report calling for the moratorium, while green groups have slammed it.
Ecofishers head Ken Thurlow said the ban would allow time for detailed scientific assessment of existing state marine parks.
However, the State Government has moved that the Solitary Islands Marine Park is exempt from the moratorium given a review is currently underway.
The report from the Select Committee on Recreational Fishing includes 38 recommendations covering issues from enforcement of existing rules, commercial fisheries, to improving environmental protection.
Mr Thurlow said issues such as stormwater pollution, coastal development and agriculture were the biggest issues impacting on marine environments.
He said the government’s only solution however, has been to restrict fishing.
“Scientists know what lies on the floor of only 20 per cent of the Solitary Islands Marine Park,” Mr Thurlow said.
“Fish surveys have revealed only modest increases in some species, but not one stormwater drain that’s entering the park is filtered,” he said.
In opposition, an alliance of 38 conservation groups has labelled the moratorium a “dangerous set back for marine conservation.”
“Marine parks play an absolutely essential role in maintaining the long-term health and sustainability of our oceans,” National Parks Association director Kevin Evans said.
“A five-year ban on new marine parks in NSW is out of step with public opinion and the advice of scientists from around the world,” said Nature Conservation Council chief executive, Pepe Clarke.
Committee chair Robert Brown, from the Shooters and Fishers Party, described the Inquiry Into Recreational Fishing in NSW as a ‘thorough investigation of the recreational fishery’.
“The State’s recreational and commercial fisheries have historically been highly regulated and well managed,” Mr Brown said.
“The report considers the known threats to marine biodiversity and the current status of NSW fish stocks. (It) investigates the impact of recreational fishing on marine biodiversity,” he said.
It was agreed marine parks would be a pressing political issue for the State Election in March.