Plan has long-term benefits: BEC

LOCAL conservation group the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) has welcomed the Marine Park Authority’s new zoning plan for the Solitary Island Marine Park.

It has joined other environmental bodies in welcoming increased sanctuary zones, greater restrictions on prawn trawlers and long line fishing, as well as improved protection for coral reefs and threatened shark species.

“The changes to the Solitary Island Marine Park zoning plan will deliver improved conservation outcomes with long-term benefits for recreational fishers and local tourism operators,” the BEC’s Leif Nielsen Lemke said.

“We understand that this plan is an interim measure and BEC will work toward ensuring that the NSW government substantially increases the size of both sanctuary zones and marine protected areas in the future to ensure adequate protection of the marine biodiversity of NSW.”

He said the expansion of sanctuary zones from 12 per cent to 19 per cent of the marine park would provide welcome protection for many species of marine life.

However, the conservation group believes the reduction in prawn trawling from 34 per cent to 13 per cent does not go far enough in phasing out what it called a ‘destructive’ form of fishing.

“We are disappointed that destructive fishing in inshore waters of the marine park is still permitted under the new plan of management,” Mr Nielsen Lemke said.

“The proposed protection for wobbegong sharks is particularly welcome, given the growing concern about the dramatic decrease in shark population numbers worldwide.

“However, it is disappointing that sharks have not been fully protected from overfishing across the marine park and safeguards for critically endangered grey nurse sharks fall well short of those recommended by independent scientists and environment group.”

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