South Solitary Island.
South Solitary Island.

Prof. bags claims

A UNIVERSITY professor of fisheries has thrown his support behind the local professional fishing fleet in its campaign to continue prawn trawling off Coffs Harbour.

Professor Robert Kearney, from the University of Canberra, claims there is no evidence to suggest trawling is upsetting the marine balance in the Solitary Island Marine Park.

He has made the claim in response to the State Government’s proposed phasing out of prawn trawling in the marine park within two years. In particular, Prof. Kearney has levelled his criticisms at Deputy Director-General of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, Sally Barnes, for her stance on the review.

“Ms Barnes provides yet another example of the ongoing selective misuse of the available science by her department in advocating more fishing closures in marine parks,” Professor Kearney said.

“Her recent letter in the Coffs Coast Advocate misrepresents the information contained in the primary paper it references and fails to acknowledge similar work which reaches conclusions contrary to those she advocates.”

Professor Kearney said research Ms Barnes has referred to claims trawling presents high risk levels to seabed habitats.

He claimed the department is using international research to justify the science behind its policy, while ignoring more relevant Australian findings.

“There is another relevant paper, also published in 2009, by CSIRO and the then NSW Department of Primary Industries, that looked specifically at fish trawling (potentially more damaging than prawn trawling) in offshore marine parks off NSW.

“It concluded that by excluding such trawling marine reserves cause an increase in sharks and rays but an overall decline in biodiversity of the groups represented in the study,” he said.

The Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative will meet with a senior Federal Opposition member of parliament to discuss its plight at the marina on Tuesday.

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