Tourism backs shark protection

MID North Coast Tourism has backed scuba divers and environmentalists in their push for greater grey nurse shark protections off South West Rocks and the Coffs Coast.

The organisation says it’s concerned for the safety of the endangered species at Fish Rock, Green Island and around the Solitary Islands as the State Government completes its review into grey nurse shark management. Protection measures introduced last year under the previous Labor Government and welcomed by conservation groups were revoked by the O’Farrell Government in April.

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said the review would assess the science and social and commercial effects of fishing restrictions banning bait, live bait and jig fishing in shark aggregation sites.

Public submissions were called in late May and are scheduled to close on August 26.

However, local divers, environmentalists and now tourism chiefs are concerned by the timeframe of the assessment, saying a lack of protection in the interim could prove fatal to the grey nurse sharks.

“We are not only concerned for the welfare of this endangered species, but also the impact on our successful dive industry centred on Fish Rock, which is recognised as one of the best dive sites in the world,” said Mid North Coast Tourism executive director Belinda Novicky.

Environmental lobbyist John Jeayes of the North Coast Environment Council says he’s concerned for the shark colonies.

“Initially, the review was intended to take three months, has now extended to four and the Department of Fisheries now has to review the submissions and carry out meetings all which will not be complete before Christmas,” Mr Jeayes said.

South West Rocks diver, Peter Hitchins, says fishing lures can be fatal to the sharks and cause severe harm.

“We want fishing restrictions speedily reintroduced in these key grey nurse shark breeding areas that are recognised as the greatest aggregation point for this species on the east coast of NSW,” Mr Hitchins said.

“This is a critically endangered species we are dealing with here and it is morally wrong to be cruelly impacting upon them in the manner that the revocation of the protections allows.”

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