Support for Marine Protections

(Parliament House - Legislative Assembly Debate)

Marine Parks Act 1997: Disallowance Of Marine Parks (Zoning Plans) Amendment (Solitary Islands And Jervis Bay Marine Parks) Regulation 2011.

I oppose the motion for disallowance. Overfishing, climate change, habitat destruction and degradation, and pollution are causing detrimental impacts in our coastal marine waters and pose serious threats to future marine habitat and biodiversity. If we do not protect our marine ecosystems our food supply and fishing industry will be at risk. While the World Conservation Union has set a target for sanctuary protection of 20 per cent to 30 per cent of global waters, less than 7 per cent of New South Wales waters have such protection. Marine parks and sanctuary zones have overwhelming scientific support. "No-take" marine sanctuaries have shown to double fish and invertebrate densities, triple biomass, increase mean fish sizes by 20 per cent to 30 per cent, boost the number of species by 23 per cent, quadruple catch per unit efforts in nearby waters, and make marine ecosystems 21 per cent less vulnerable to environmental change. Marine sanctuaries also provide tourism, education and research opportunities.

The Marine Parks (Zoning Plans) Amendment (Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay Marine Parks) Regulation 2011 provides some improvement to previous protective zonings in the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks. The region is home to the grey nurse shark, which is critically endangered, and has a range of ecological values, including rocky reefs, invertebrates, special fish assemblages, mangroves, high molluscs and seagrass beds. The new protections were introduced following a statutory five-year review that involved extensive community consultation. While the regulation provided improvements, environment groups were concerned that it did not go far enough and left critical habitat unprotected.

The Government has committed to an independent scientific review of sanctuary zones and has stated publicly that it will abide by the outcomes of that review. Environment groups support an independent and scientific process. If protective zones are scaled back, moved or removed, scientific assessment of their benefits becomes difficult. Sanctuary zones are effective only if they are permanent, as marine ecosystems take time to replenish and revert to their normal state. The decision to reverse the existing protections that came out of a statutory review does not appear to be scientific. There is widespread concern that it could have more to do with local politics and appeasing the Shooters and Fishers Party and its anti-marine park agenda. That is the fear in the community.

Government polls show that 85 per cent of New South Wales residents support marine parks. I share widespread community concern that without fully protected marine sanctuaries the marine biodiversity of New South Wales could disappear, with many species lost. Sanctuary zones protect nursing grounds and feeding habitat, which benefit anglers and the fishing industry as fish stocks adjacent to sanctuary zones increase. Protecting marine ecosystems should be a priority for this Parliament. I agree with the Minister that we need a range of solutions to address the many threats to biodiversity in our waters, but I disagree with her response to remove the existing protections we have under a proven system.

For full debate go to NSW Parliament website, HERE.