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Fears for NSW marine life as environmental protection scrapped

Fears for NSW marine life as environmental protection scrapped
June 18, 2011

Marine scientists have criticised a decision by the NSW Government to abolish environmental protection in two NSW marine parks, accusing it of putting marine life at "unnecessary risk."

The zones in the Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine parks were approved just before the state election by the former Labor government.

The changes reduced the area where fishing is permitted, added to the list of endangered marine life not allowed to be taken and better protected intermediate-depth reef habitats.

Announcing that the NSW Government would "disallow" the new zones, the Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, recently told Parliament they had been introduced "without proper community consultation" to attract preference vote sfro the NSW Greens.

However, a communication to Minister Hodgkinson by the NSW president of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, Melanie Bishop, on behalf of more than 100 scientists said the claim was "incorrect and seriously misguided".

The communication stated that the establishment of the new zones was "based on extensive community consultation processes that included more than 70 stakeholder meetings attended by hundreds of people as well as review of almost 10,000 submissions from the broad community.

"The consultation and review process was an enormous effort spanning more than two years, considering all stakeholder perspectives and was well received by the public as encompassing and transparent,'' Dr Bishop continued.

Dr Bishop added that local communities "are completely on board with the benefits of a marine park for their community, not only as an amenity, but as a major attraction for tourism."

The decision to abolish the protection zones and revert to those established in 2002 "makes a complete mockery of the public consultation process and puts the important conservation values of these areas at unnecessary risk."

In a media release as part of the announcement, NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, said the Government remained committed to a scientific review of all NSW marine parks which it promised before the election.

However, Dr Bishop said an independent scientific review published in December 2009 stated the science of marine parks in NSW was "excellent."

Dr Bishop also stated "I urge you to fully consider the high-quality science being produced both here in NSW and elsewhere in your review."

The media release issued by Ministers Hodgkinson and Parker was titled: "NSW government takes the politics out of marine parks" while Dr Bishop's communication to Minister Hodgkinson is headed: "Putting the politics back IN marine parks."

The Shooters and Fishers Party, whose MPs the government must rely on to pass legislation in the upper house opposed by Labor and the Greens, wants a five-year moratorium on new marine parks.

Image: Jervis Bay.

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