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Nature Coast Marine Group news

Dear Editor

Attached and copied below is an item first published in the Nature Coast Marine Group regarding our Art on the Path stall this coming Sunday in Broulee and the opening of some sanctuary zones to fishing.

WHY WE NEED TO KEEP OUR MARINE SANCTUARIES

At Broulee’s Art on the Path this Sunday 8th March, Nature Coast Marine Group will be holding a stall to chat with residents and visitors about why we need to keep our marine sanctuaries.

“Recent bushfires, flooding rains and polluting run-off have seriously harmed marine life in estuarine areas of the Batemans Marine Park and pose a potential threat elsewhere,” says the Group’s President, Dr Jane Elek.  “We need marine sanctuaries more than ever, to give marine life a better chance of withstanding stresses, as well as to help them flourish into the future.”

Before our horrendous summer the Minister for Agriculture declared an amnesty on fishing in sanctuary zones in Wagonga Inlet, Nangudga Lake, Whittakers Creek at Brou Lake, and Montague  Island.

This was done without any scientific justification and without the legally required public consultation,” Dr Elek said.  “This is another act to further weaken the protection of our marine life, following opening up of most of the beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones to fishing.”

“Our catchments and waterways are suffering and this latest amnesty needs to be rescinded now.” During the fires toxic smoke, ash and burnt leaves covered estuaries, beaches and nearby seas.  Firestorms left soil in the catchments exposed to erosion.

Heavy rain following the fires washed huge amounts of soil, ash, dissolved toxins and debris into waterways and estuaries. The water became so dirty and toxic that fish and invertebrates had their gills clogged, and light could no longer penetrate to seagrasses and algae.  The freshwater input was also a problem as estuarine species that had become used to higher salinity during the drought suddenly had to adjust to very low salinity. Nutrients from the ash and agricultural land encouraged nuisance algal growth which, together with decomposing debris, removed oxygen from the water.  The result was fish kills in shallow creeks, lakes and estuaries such as Whittakers Creek, a tributary of Brou Lake sanctuary zone.

The summer’s disasters have been linked to climate change which is already impacting our coast in other ways.  The waters of NSW’s south coast are warming faster than most other places, are becoming more acidic, and are exposed to worsening storms.

Dr Elek explained, “Marine sanctuaries are needed now more than ever to encourage resilience in the face of stresses.  Then these protected areas can provide the baseline for management of fisheries as well as undisturbed breeding areas for fish.  At the same time they will be available for non-extractive recreation and tourism.” Jenny Edwards

PHOTOS by Jane Elek

Above: Intertidal seaweed covered with ash

Above: Ash at South Broulee beach

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