THE man in the hotseat believes reducing prawn trawling in the Solitary Islands Marine Park will not make much difference to the State’s prawning industry.
NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor, who was in Coffs Harbour yesterday to address the 2010 Waste Conference, said the much-anticipated review of the SIMP would be put on public consultation ‘within days’ and would remain on exhibition for two months.
The Minister said the Government was proposing increasing the sanctuary zones from 12 per cent to 20 per cent of the park, rather than the 33 per cent recommended by researchers, and was making fishing easier around Groper Island as well as reducing some prawn trawling.
He said he had been ‘a little surprised’ by the feedback so far on the review, which consisted of ‘pretty minor’ changes except for the sanctuary zone expansion.
“If the department has made the wrong decisions, we will reconsider it,” he said, going on to accuse Coffs Coast National Party politicians of being ‘devoid of moral fibre’ and indulging in ‘polemics’ over the issue.
Mr Sartor said the (coastal) area covered by the Solitary Islands Marine Park was minor compared to the offshore fishing areas under Commonwealth control, and the NSW government had no intention of creating more than the four marine parks already in existence.
Coffs Coast recreational anglers are worried about the location of the new sanctuary zones, while commercial fishers are simply worried their livelihoods will disappear as more of the park is locked up .
The Minister said while there was anecdotal evidence the quality and quantity of marine life in the SIMP was improving; CSIRO research paper style proof was years away because it took 12-20 years for marine parks to show scientifically verifiable changes.
“But the evidence from overseas is overwhelming,” Mr Sartor said.