'No-take' marine park zones a disaster
With public consultation on the SIMP zoning plan closing in just more than a week, environmental campaigners are calling for a third of the marine park to be designated a sanctuary zone.
But fishers nominee on the SIMP advisory panel, Geoff Blackburn, said the effect of such a move on the local commercial fishing industry would be 'devastating'.
"Commercial fishing of the marine park has been deemed viable and sustainable, and we've passed a number of government reviews with flying colours and, in some cases, exceeded the requirements," Mr Blackburn said.
"The environmental footprint of commercial fishing is far lower than other groups."
Mr Blackburn said the commercial fishing industry suffers from a 'perception problem', making it an easy target when it comes to environmental issues.
"We don't want to take the last fish," he said.
"But people must realise the marine park has been put in place to protect an ecosystem, not as a fish management tool, and while naturally everyone would wish to have their own agenda adopted, if one sector is excluded and another is not, the playing field isn't level."
In an online letter, the North Coast Environment Council is urging its supporters to call for a minimum of 33 per cent of the Solitary Island Marine Park to be fully protected with a sanctuary zone, a substantial increase from the present 12 per cent.
"Such a step will go a long way towards protecting the marine habitats and the biodiversity of the local marine environment, but will also help in protecting wild fish stock for future generations," the NCEC said.
"The position of some recreational and commercial fishers is that they have a 'God given right' to fish anywhere they wish and this attitude and practice has led to a significant depletion of the marine resources and brought many species to the brink of extinction."
As well as the 33 per cent no-take zone, the NCEC is also calling for a phasing out of trawling, increased protection of all shark species and a phasing out of 4WDs from the marine park's beaches.
The plan for the Solitary Islands Marine Park is on review until June 2, for further information see: