Research is behind plans for the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
Research is behind plans for the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Coffs deep water reefs mapped

A SENIOR environmental scientist says marine research off Coffs Harbour has underpinned the State Government’s radical review of the Solitary Island Marine Park.

Dr Alan Jordan, of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, dismissed claims that the issue has been politicised through a proposed ban on prawn trawling and increased sanctuary zones.

His comments have contradicted protests by the commercial fishing industry that the policy is geared at winning Green votes.

Dr Jordan says the changes are in line with years of extensive scientific studies on sea bed habitat, biodiversity assessments and fish studies.

He said in a first, deep water reefs off Coffs Harbour have been mapped.

“This new state-of-the-art mapping has been recognised as one of the best mapping programs in Australia and has been responsible for us discovering new and very valuable seabed habitats,” Dr Jordan said.

“It’s exciting because these are areas that we’ve had no information about at all and further research is likely to find new and interesting components of marine biodiversity.”

The scientific findings will be made public next month when the government releases its draft review showing the revised “no take” fish zones.

What is known is that sanctuary zones are tipped to rise from 12 to 20 per cent of the park area and prawn trawlers will be phased out of the park by 2012. This news prompted the Sydney Fish Market to enter the debate last week.

Given roughly 60 per cent of all local seafood ends up on the scales of Sydney fishmongers, it sided with commercial fishermen.

The Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative also issued a call to the public, calling for support to save local jobs and investment.

While in line with its environmental plan, the National Parks Association cited the review as a win for marine conservation and one that will boost local tourism.

“Despite negative propaganda from some anti-marine park lobby groups claiming a lack of community support, the evidence points to marine parks being a positive step forward for NSW communities,” Marine program manager Nicky Hammond said.

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