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Environment Minister Mat Kean plans to restore status to Batemans Marine Park zones

Question to the Minister for Energy and the Environment, the Hon. Matthew Kean MP, at the Nature Conservation Council AGM, 31 October 2020: NCC President, Don White: “Will you take urgent action to restore to their full “no-take” status the Batemans Marine Park sanctuary zones at Montague Island that were opened in December 2019...Will you do the same for the other sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park that were opened at the same time?"

Minister’s Kean's reply: "Well, the simple answer is ‘Yes’."

VIDEO: Minister for the Environment Matt Kean answering a NCMG question regarding the Batemans Marine Sanctuaries at the NCC AGM 31 Oct 2020. Of additional interest around the Batemans Marine Park the Nature Coast Marine Group have posted an interview Transcription from Mornings on ABC South East NSW where Simon Lauder interviews Professor Hugh Possingham from the University of Queensland 7.10 am, 8 October 2020 Simon Lauder: (to public) Now what does the idea of a marine park suggest for you? Do you think of it as a recreation zone, a play space for all things to do with coastal waters or is it intended to be a protected area to conserve marine diversity, biodiversity and support marine science? Well the reality for the six marine parks in New South Wales including Batemans, which stretches from around Murramarang Beach to Wallaga Lake is to balance a range of functions – protection, recreation, science and education. One local group is concerned the balance is out of whack. Last December you might remember the New South Wales government removed six fishing sanctuaries from the Batemans Marine Park and the Nature Coast Marine Group is calling for the ‘no-take’ zones to be reinstated. They claim the call is backed by science, pointing to the work of Professor Hugh Possingham, who joins us on the programme this morning from Queensland. Professor Possingham, good morning. Professor Possingham: Good morning, Simon, Hi. Simon Lauder: Thank you so much for joining us. Why are you, I guess, backing this call by the Nature Coast Marine Group to restore protection for these sanctuary zones? Professor Possingham: Well I'm not probably backing any particular call. I've been working on the science of marine parks and I was the former chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy which is a global NGO. We were bringing in marine protected areas in countries all over the world and have been doing for 10 or 20 years. I’m an expert on how to design protected area systems. In fact, our software built the entire Great Barrier Reef protected area system and so I've read a lot and I've studied a lot. There’s an enormous amount of data on how much of a protected area should be fully protected from fishing and in general the science, the models, the data suggest that 30% protection from extraction of fish is what delivers the best for nature and actually delivers the best outcome for the fisherman. Simon Lauder: OK, so we’re talking about six sanctuary areas, which were previously out of bounds and now have been opened up somewhat. What is the significance of areas such as that? What’s the science say about what they do for biodiversity? Professor Possingham: The advantage of having some ‘no-take’ areas where there’s no fishing at all is first of all that the fish that live them, I mean it's sort of a bit of a no brainer really - you could ask a five year old this, where there is no fishing at all particularly the more sedentary fish - reef fish and things like that - the fish that live in those places get very big and fish, unlike cows or people, cows they grow for a year or two and then they stop growing and then they produce one or two calves every year. Fish are unusual – they have indeterminate growth, a bit more like a tree. So when they’re small they tend not to reproduce, they get a bit bigger and they have a few babies but they keep on just getting bigger and bigger. Anybody who’s had a goldfish and put it in a pond, has seen this in fact. You can see goldfish, if they’re in a big enough space they will be enormous. But the number of eggs they produce, the number of larvae they produce scales even faster than that so a fish that’s three times bigger usually produces ten times as many eggs. So there’s an enormous advantage in having protected areas where you get those very, very big fish, because they are ridiculously productive and they basically provide benefits for fishermen of stabilising the supply of fish and also, every now and then, they move out of those places and you get to catch an enormous fish. You just don’t get that if you’re fishing everywhere. Simon Lauder: Does that mean that the effects of these decisions that we make on sanctuary zones and opening them and closing them, that those effects don’t show up until years down the track? Professor Possingham: That’s right, it’s usually three to ten years in the life cycle. For some fish species its even longer. So the decisions we are making now are not unlike managing of the forests in that part of the world. If you really want old trees you have to wait a very long time and you can quickly lose all your old trees and have to wait years for them to return. So fishing is the same and I think people all around the world where we’ve worked, whether it’s in the Pacific or whether it’s Indonesia, or in Moreton Bay, where I helped design the marine protected areas, there’s always resistance to ‘no-take’ areas early on but we find a few years after the ‘no-take’ areas have gone in, most of the recreational fishers are saying ‘I’m catching bigger fish, I’m catching more fish, I’m much happier’ and so it’s a ‘win-win’ situation and its always puzzling when those regulations are rolled back. Simon Lauder: And I know there’s value here in sticking to the science and what we know about science, you don’t want to get caught up in the local debates but you’d be aware that there are strong views on both sides of this, Professor Possingham, what is the value of full protection , I guess what is the case against the compromise that has been made recently? Professor Possingham: Yes, it is just that. Now recreational fishing in many of these coastal areas all along the east coast of Australia, is actually taking as much fish as commercial fishing, and with some stocks, they’re taking more fish than commercial fishing. So the idea of just keeping out commercial fishers and not keeping out the recreational fishers doesn’t meet the purposes of a protected area. It’s a bit like saying ‘Let’s have a national park, but we will allow logging in 70% of it, why not? Because we can log everywhere. We won’t take out many trees, but we’ll take out a few. So with marine parks, we can have these ‘win-win’ outcomes. Many of the fishers say to me ‘Why do we have marine parks because many of the fish will swim out and they’ll catch them eventually?’ I say ‘Great, why are you against them? You’ll catch the fish eventually or you’ll catch their offspring.’ The other final thing it’s worth knowing is that habitat loss is something that’s not very visible in the sea but anchoring and boats in some ways do cause damage to the substrate. You don’t often see that but just the process of anchoring on a sea grass bed causes damage and lots and lots of boats anchoring in sea grass beds or where there are soft corals, again they’re destroying habitat and that’s the actual habitat which is a nursery ground for lots of these fish. So having places where people can’t anchor is also extremely important. Simon Lauder: Professor Hugh Possingham, thanks so much for talking marine sanctuaries with us this morning.

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