The NSW government's roll back of protection at Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks represents an unprecedented attack on marine protected areas, according to Australia's leading conservation groups.
A coalition of 47 groups has condemned the State government's roll back of sanctuary zones as a cynical political move and a dangerous precedent in marine reserve management nationally.
Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Chief Executive Officer, Pepe Clarke said, 'The NSW government has justified winding back protection measures at Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay on the basis that the re-zonings earlier this year were rushed through and not based on thorough community consultation.
'Today a community of 47 conservation groups representing more than 190,000 community members refutes these claims as entirely unfounded.
'Protections for the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks were increased following extensive community consultation, including a review of almost 10,000 submissions and 70 stakeholder meetings attended by hundreds of people.
'The zoning plans introduced earlier this year represent a strong balance between conservation, recreational fishing and commercial fishing needs. Weakening sanctuary protection is out of step with the overwhelming majority of people in NSW who support marine parks as vital havens for our marine life,' he said.
Australian Marine Conservation Society, Marine Campaigns Officer, Tooni Mahto said, 'Far from taking the politics out of marine parks as claimed, the NSW Government is putting them centre stage in a process that has, to date, been driven by science not political whim.
'Their claims of a marine parks policy based on science not politics are highly questionable. The NSW government is clearly demonstrating that it isn't listening to the science, so how can the public have faith in their approach to marine conservation?' she said.
National Parks Association of NSW Executive Officer Kevin Evans said, 'Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson has claimed the re-zoning was 'rushed' and did not consider local community views. This claim is more than misleading, it is disrespectful to the thousands of people who participated in a two year process that led to better protection of threatened species, other marine life and their habitat.
'The community understands the importance of marine parks in safeguarding the long-term future of their favourite fishing and swimming locations. A truly independent and non-political scientific review of marine parks is an essential step for informed community participation in the ongoing management of our precious marine parks,' he said.
The coalition of 47 conservation groups include:
Nature Conservation Council of NSW
National Parks Association of NSW
Australian Marine Conservation Society
Humane Society International
Total Environment Centre Inc.
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Conservation Council of SA
The Wilderness Society
Marine Discovery Centre
Sea Turtle Foundation
South Head Marine Sanctuaries
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund
South West Rocks Dive Centre
Spot A Shark
Colong Foundation of Wilderness
Nature Coast Marine Group
NSW Wildlife Council
South East Region Conservation Alliance NSW
Sutherland Shire Environment Centre
Bellingen Environment Centre
Friends of Durras
Community-based Environmental Conservation
Wildlife Preservation Society Australia
EcoNetwork - Port Stephens Inc.
Clarence Environment Centre
Columban Mission Institute
Great Lakes Environment Association
Blacktown District Environment Group
EcoNetwork Port Stephens
Friends of the Brush]Tailed Wallaby
Friends of Tumblebee
Hornsby Conservation Society
Jervis Bay Regional Alliance
Kangaroo Valley Environment Group
Mudgee District Environment Group
Native Animal Network
Parks and Playgrounds
Ryde Hunters Hill Flora & Fauna
Sustainable Population Australia
Australian Marine Conservation Society website