Govt releases Marine Park plan

THE State Government has released its revised blueprint for the Solitary Island Marine Park in what appears to be a vote-winning, environmentally slanted policy.

At the expense of prawn trawling, which will be phased out in two years, the draft review offers recreational fishermen greater access to key fishing spots near Bare Bluff, Groper Island and Minnie Water Back Beach.

Overall sanctuary zones – which can be viewed at – will increase from 12 to 20 per cent of the park’s area but National Parks and Wildlife Service North Coast region manager Alan Jeffery says there is a good practical reason explaining most of it.

“As people will see on the map, a lot of the boundaries of the current sanctuary zones are rounded; the public in their submissions have raised the difficulty in complying with rounded boundaries,” Mr Jeffery said.

“Acting on these submissions, these boundaries are proposed to become more squared to make it easier for the public to understand and comply with restrictions on fishing in certain areas.”

It’s been noted that 80 per cent of reef inside the park will still be outside sanctuary zones and available for recreational fishing.

Onshore, however, the plan will see changes to Diggers Camp, which is proposed to become the only rock platform included as a fish sanctuary zone.

Greater grey nurse shark habitat protection will also be offered at South and North Solitary islands.

Barebluff, off Moonee Beach, will be opened to fishing in the summer months as pelagic species pass through but closed to fishing in winter as snapper move to inshore reefs.

While the policy is said to be supportive of the $8.5 million Coffs Clarence recreational fishing industry, commercial fishermen are the big losers under the plan.

Mr Jeffery said scientific research and public pressure has identified the need for a ban on prawn trawling.

“The prawn fishing industry has previously stated that 85 per cent of its king prawn catch comes in Commonwealth Waters, so based on that comes the presumption that 15 per cent of the catch is caught in the Solitary Island Marine Park,” Mr Jeffery said.

“It has been found that Coffs Harbour produces about two per cent of the prawn catch in NSW, so to say this plan will significantly impact on the local seafood industry is a broad statement for discussion rather than argument.”

If the review plan is accepted, local professional prawn fishermen will face the prospect of licence buybacks.

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