Batemans Marine Park Sanctuary Zones to be Abolished

The information below was sent by the Nature Coast Marine Group regarding the abolition of sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park without scientific assessment or public consultation and even without consulting the Batemans Marine Park Advisory Committee. Click through to their website to sign a petition to Save our Sanctuaries, to join the group, or simply to subscribe to their emails (Membership Page) in order to be kept up-to-date on the issue.

The NSW Government is scrapping sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park We have been struggling during this year to head off a push from local member Andrew Constance to get rid of a number of sanctuary zones in the marine park. Unfortunately the worst has now come to pass. Agriculture Minister Marshall put out a media release on Thursday 12 December in which he announced that recreational fishing will henceforth be permitted in sanctuary zones at Montague Island (2 sites), Wagonga Inlet (2 sites), Brou Lake and Nangudga Lake. The decision is even worse than we feared because these changes will take place immediately under an “amnesty” system, before any consultation with the community. 

There are good reasons why these sanctuary zones exist. They allow for protection of biodiversity in the wide variety of habitats in the marine park, they promote conditions for the flourishing of marine flora and fauna and protect threatened species, including grey nurse sharks, black rockcod, shorebirds and seagrasses. All these values will now be undermined.

By contrast, there are no good reasons for the changes that have been announced. There has been no process of scientific assessment. No scientific justification has been put forward for the changes, which in addition undermine the integrity of the zones as scientific reference areas. 

The process is deeply disheartening. The legislation requires that changes be open for public consultation for a period of at least two months, but with the decision already made, what hope can anyone have that that the consultation will be genuine?

In addition, these cut backs to sanctuary zones have not been considered by the Batemans Marine Park Advisory Committee (on which we are represented) or any other forum representing the wider community.

We are particularly disappointed because we met with staff from the offices of both Agriculture Minister Marshall and Environment Minister Kean in the past couple of months to express concern about the Constance proposals. Mr Marshall subsequently wrote to us to say that “any proposed change to sanctuary zones would need to be subject to public consultation for a minimum of two months as required by legislation”.

Looking forward we have to be concerned because Andrew Constance has foreshadowed a ‘step by step’ approach that would see the dismantling of further sanctuary zone protections. The prospect is for a marine park that would be there on the map but not in reality – nothing but a “paper” park.
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