New laws could lift 'crippling' fishing laws

CRIPPLING bans on commercial and recreational fishing in Northern NSW could be lifted if laws passed in the NSW Parliament this week make it through the Upper House.

Under changes to marine parks legislation, Clarence fishing fleets would be allowed into revised zones and line fishing from ocean beaches permitted.

The five-year moratorium on the rezoning of marine parks would also be lifted to allow the NSW Government to change current boundaries of declared marine sanctuaries.

Speaking in favour of the bill during the parliamentary debate this week Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said changes were critical to the region's economy.

He said the local fishing industry had, "seriously suffered" as a result of some "very poor decisions" made by the previous government, which sided with the Greens and ignored the science.

He told his colleagues the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative provided 30% of the fresh seafood sold at the iconic Sydney fish market and injected more than $20 million into the local economy.

He also reminded them the world renowned Yamba prawns regularly served in the parliamentary dining room came from an industry which had been intrinsic to the Clarence community for decades.

Changes to the bill were recommended following a review by an independent panel which found the community had not been properly consulted before the moratorium was imposed.

Mr Gulaptis said the new approach to marine parks would deliver long-term benefits to the electorate and the rest of the state and "bring science back to the heart" of the decisions.

If the bill makes it through, the Solitary Islands off Coffs Harbour will be the first marine park to undergo a review.

Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser said commercial and recreational fishers had "basically been excluded from where they would catch fish" and restricted to areas with a sandy bottom where there was no chance of catching popular species like snapper and bream.

He said the bill was not about taking away sanctuary zones but "creating new ones".

The bill passed through the Lower House and will be reviewed by the Upper House when parliament resumes on Monday.

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