Sydney Marine Park - FAQs

You can read the full proposal by the Government here

This FAQ page is designed to answer some of the criticisms of the proposal. Many of the criticisms are unfounded and have been spread by vested interests who have sought to deliberately mislead the public. 

Don't forget to have your say and make a submission to the proposal here.

Recreational fishers will be locked out of Sydney Harbour and local beaches

Simply not true

The proposal would create 19 sanctuaries and three other conservation zones making up just 4.6% of the entire bio-region. The rest of the area, between 90-95% will remain open to all or some types of fishing.

There are also a number of special purpose zones, many of which are dedicated for recreational fishing.

Regardless of these statistics, some fishers will make the point that the best areas are being locked out and the relatively small areas make up quite a big percentage of the area fished.

There is some truth in this, but it is over-played significantly. It is understandable given the nature of the marine environment with often condensed areas of habitat and large areas of often featureless environments, that there is an overlap between areas of environmental and fishing values. However, the Sydney marine environment has large areas of quality habitat and significant parts of this, including some of the most popular areas both inside and outside of the harbour would remain open to fishing.

Any marine park design should also ensure there remain safe places to fish, especially for kids and others learning.

It is understandable that a new sanctuary that prevents a local fisher fishing at a location where they have always fished will not be received favourably. This is understandable but largely unavoidable. The idea of a marine park and dedicated no-fishing sanctuaries is grounded in a principled position that there is a greater good in preserving that area for environmental protection. It is also the case that there are other users who enjoy the marine environment for non-extractive uses and there is an intrinsic value in trying to preserve the environment in as pristine condition as it can be (despite the pre-existing impacts of urban development and historical pollution and fishing).  

There’s been no consultation

Simply not true

The NSW Government started a review of the management of the marine environment after the 2011 election. An Independent Scientific Assessment of NSW Marine Parks reported in 2012 and recommended the state’s marine park network be expended to cover the Sydney region (known as the Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion). The Marine Estate Management Authority was formed in 2013 to advise and guide the implementation of the findings of the review.

The first consultation on how to manage the marine environment around Sydney started in 2014 and was backed up by a comprehensive analysis of the threats to the local marine environment and a proposed suite of eight suggested management initiatives. Thousands of public submissions on the proposals were received.

This current consultation period is on a proposal that has come out of these earlier consultations.   

There’s no science

Not true

There has been a detailed assessment of the threats to the environmental and social values of the marine environment around Sydney. This has been based on a thorough understanding of the habitat types and species and a detailed threat and risk assessment that was locally specific. Detailed stock assessments have also informed the plans.

There is also clear research in existing sanctuary zones in other marine parks that shows the value of marine sanctuaries (no-fishing areas) in terms of increased size and density of fish life compared to surrounding areas, fisheries benefits from spill-over into adjacent areas, and increased rates of recovery from shocks compared to non-protected areas. The Australian Marine Sciences Association has a detailed policy statement on Marine Protected Areas (Marine Parks)

Any new sites should be implemented with a view to doing long-term research to assess their value and to inform future reviews.

The proposal isn’t targeting the biggest threats - which is pollution

More can be done, but sanctuaries are still important

The threat analysis done by the Government of both the Sydney region and wider NSW Marine Estate found pollution and poor water quality generally as the biggest risks to estuary and inshore waters. As part of the recent announcement, the Government has committed about 75% of a $54m package to habitat improvements to assist in addressing water quality issues.

Regardless, there needs to be more done to reduce polluted water entering the marine environment including by stopping all raw sewage outfalls off Sydney’s beaches, improving the quality of treated water entering the marine environment and storm water management and harvesting to reduce sediment loads and urban pollution from making its way into estuaries and the ocean.

Marine sanctuaries are recognised in the threat and risk assessment as one of the tools to help mitigate the risk of pollution by building the resilience of the broader marine ecosystem to respond and recover from events, including pollution events.


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