Nats to go fishing for changes

BARELY a month after the new Solitary Island Marine Park zonings were enacted there are strong indications the new State Government will roll back controversial fishing restrictions.

Even though Premier Barry O’Farrell is yet to announce his cabinet, Nationals Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell says he has it on good authority the incoming Primary Industries Minister will scrutinise the marine park changes.

“Decisions will be made on scientific data and not political influence,” Mr Cansdell said.

The Nationals claim last-minute changes were made to the zonings by the outgoing Labor Government to appease the Greens in exchange for preferences in marginal Sydney seats.

The Greens have taken the Coalition to task, saying that the biggest threat to the NSW fishing industry is the Nationals.

Vocal Sydney-based Greens MP and marine spokeswoman, Cate Faehrmann, said a further review would lead to the wholesale disregard for sound marine science.

“It’s only a few days since the election and we already have the National Party talking about reviewing, then removing, marine sanctuary zones in NSW marine parks,” Ms Faehrmann said.

“Mr Cansdell’s comments that ‘real science and local knowledge was not a priority in the decision making’ is a slap in the face for the professional marine scientists

and management experts, as well as all of the other local stakeholders who dedicatedhundreds of hours to getting this outcome,” she said.

Before the election Coalition candidates backed professional fishing groups, prawn trawlers, fishing co-operatives and recreational anglers in questioning the science the new zonings were based on.

Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser says the Coalition Government will revisit the review and analyse the scientific evidence in consultation with marine park stakeholders.

“We want proper conservation based on science,” Mr Fraser said.

“Under Labor the zones which are now in place were not outlined in the original proposal, they were included on the basis of politics, so this Government will make sure the process is fair.

“The Nationals have always been environmentally conscious, we are not extreme like the Greens, and we are conservationists, not preservationists.

“We don’t support the lock it up, lock out mentality. I believe with a few adjustments the zonings can be made to be workable for all parties,” he said.

Fishing charter operator Stan Young, of Wooli Deep Sea Tours, said he hoped future studies into the marine park would consider local business submissions.

Beside Labor’s expansion of the park’s sanctuary zones from 12% to 19%, the rezoning also hit the local commercial fishing industry hard.

Professional Fishermen’s Association industry representative John Harrison said the marine park expansion affected six North Coast fisheries.

“Ocean trawl fishing grounds, which is prawns, went from 34% general use to 13% general use,” he said.

“We lost some significant and important trawl grounds.”

The zonings also brought changes to the ocean trap and line, spanner crab, mud crab, lobster and ocean netting fisheries.

An announcement of a further Solitary Island Marine Park review is expected, and could be made as early as next week, the Nationals have indicated.

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