Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has called on the NSW Government to commit to maintaining and strengthening marine sanctuary protections under any changes to the state’s marine parks as the Government begins a long-awaited three month consultation on a new draft strategy.
All five mainland marine parks, Batemans, Jervis Bay, Port Stephens - Great Lakes, Solitary Islands, and Cape Byron, are being considered under the draft network management plan which is now years overdue.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “since the Liberals and Nationals came to Government in 2011 they have cut protections to the marine environment in NSW and this new draft plan offers little to think that trend will be reversed.
“Today just six percent of NSW coastal waters is fully protected in marine sanctuaries. The community understands that just like on land in our National Parks it makes sense to put aside areas in the ocean for protection. Six percent is simply not enough to protect the marine environment from the increasing threats it is facing.
“Around the world countries are joining the global movement to protect 30% of the marine environment by 2030. The Australian federal Government joined this global alliance in February 2021, but the NSW Government is going backwards.
“The Government is continuing the current amnesty that allows illegal fishing in five marine sanctuaries across the Batemans Marine Park including the globally recognised Montague Island, making a mockery of its claims this network plan will be guided by science and not politics.
“Fully protected marine sanctuaries offer the best protection from the cumulative threats to the marine environment including climate change, extreme storms, overfishing and pollution and I expect the community will advocate strongly for improved protections as part of this consultation.
“If the Government is serious about a science based approach and listening to the community, they would commit to expanding fully protected marine sanctuaries across the state and restoring the sanctuaries in Batemans Marine Park,” Mr Field said.
Mr Field also criticised the inclusion in the plan of a proposal of the cruise ship industry to expand into the Jervis Bay Marine Park. The potential for the proposal to be included in this network plan was first raised in the media in July this year.
“Clearly consultation has been happening with the cruise industry long before this plan was made available to the community which raises real concerns about the fairness of this process.
“There is strong opposition to cruise ships in Jervis Bay not just because of potential environmental impacts but also because of the potential for major cruise ships to detract from the aesthetic value of the bay and take away from local tourism businesses.