MARINE conservationist Attila Kaszo fears for the survival of some fish species if the state government pushes ahead with a decision to lift a ban on recreational fishing in protected marine sanctuaries.
Mr Kaszo, who was part of a campaign that won Jervis Bay sanctuary status more than 15 years ago, said marine sanctuaries contained breeding grounds that, before being protected, were overfished.
“Just 20 per cent of Jervis Bay is zoned sanctuary and the rest can be fished,” he said.
“Opening it up will put us back 20 years to when it was heavily overfished.
“What I don’t want to see happening is the erosion of the existing sanctuary zones and I want to see the habitat protection zones maintained.”
A Galaxy Research survey suggests proposals to remove bans on recreational fishing in marine sanctuaries are opposed by most fishers, local residents and divers.
The Dive Industry Association of Australia commissioned the research in anticipation of a state government decision on whether or not it would allow recreational fishing in protected marine parks.
The Galaxy survey of 1007 people in NSW, including recreational fishers and Liberal Party voters, found 93 per cent supported marine sanctuaries.
Among recreational fishers, 91 per cent supported sanctuaries and 64 per cent were opposed to them being open for fishing.
Only one in five people would support the plan to wind back marine protection, the survey found, and only 18 per cent said removing the fishing ban in marine parks was in the communities’ best interests.
For 75 per cent of people who fish recreationally, restrictions on fishing in marine parks and sanctuaries had not lessened their enjoyment of fishing.
Dive Industry Association vice-president Richard Nicholls said the survey suggested there was little support for a permanent removal of bans on recreational fishing in marine parks.
“We are surprised the government has suggested opening up fishing in sanctuaries,” Mr Nicholls said. “There is overwhelming support for marine sanctuaries, and even the fishermen are opposed to fishing in them.”
The O’Farrell government said last year that it would review every marine park in NSW and trial lifting bans on recreational fishing in most marine sanctuaries. The decision followed the government’s decision to introduce a five-year moratorium on the establishment of new marine parks.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said she wanted to ensure her decisions on marine parks were based on scientific advice, and consider the environmental, social and economic impacts.
“The NSW government is considering this expert advice, which will inform an evidence-based decision regarding the impact of recreational line fishing in these areas,” she said.
The Opposition and the NSW Greens have accused the government of capitulation to the whims of the Shooters and Fishers Party.
The Coalition accused the former Labor government of establishing new protection zones in the Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine parks soon before the last election to attract Greens’ preferences.
The changes to environmental laws allowing for line fishing in marine parks followed an audit of the parks by University of Queensland professor Bob Beeton in 2012.
An inquiry into recreational fishing in 2010 heard from marine scientists who said the sanctuaries’ system had wide public support, and that recreational fishing had a bigger impact on some species than commercial fishing.