SMH: Something fishy: big blue over marine sanctuaries. Montague Island

In the letters to the editor (SMH October 22, 2020) Linda Tucker, Central Tilba wrote: "What an odd position taken by the NSW government. With no consultation, it decided to open up internationally recognised marine sanctuaries on the south coast to recreational fishing, ignoring the clear research on the benefits of no-take zones: for biodiversity and fish stocks. ("Promise to fishermen risks island status", October 21). The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, has promoted his support for fishing by opposing local sanctuaries, noting the government would "fast-track consultation". It was so fast we didn't see it whisk by." Save Batemans Sanctuaries say of the issue "In December 2019, Minister Adam Marshall and Minister Andrew Constance announced that the NSW government would turn a blind eye to illegal fishing in six marine sanctuaries in the Batemans Marine Park.

"Most of the affected sanctuaries are in estuaries that protect important habitat for juvenile fish to grow to adulthood – our local fishers depend on these sanctuaries to provide great fishing across the rest of the park.

"Two other sanctuaries are next to our very special Montague Island – an important haul-out site for Australian Fur Seals, and home to a colony of Little Penguins.

"Removing sanctuary protection has subjected these beautiful animals to increased risk of injury from vessel strike or entanglement – especially if the current situation remains in place over summer, when thousands of visitors make their way here.

"Most NSW recreational fishers care deeply for the future of our oceans, and expect their peers to do the right thing. By turning a blind eye to regulations that protect important habitats and feeding grounds, the government is risking the fish of the future.

"With summer ahead, we are all hoping for a safe summer. It’s time to reinstate full protection and give our wildlife the safe summer they deserve," the Save Batemans Sanctuaries group say.

Save Batemans Sanctuaries had written to the State Government: Dear Minister Constance and Minister Marshall (cc Minister Kean)

Since the government made the announcement that six sanctuary protections would be rolled back in Batemans Marine Park, our communities have been under enormous pressure. We’ve battled bushfires and Covid-19, and our local businesses have struggled to survive.

It’s been really encouraging to see our representatives come together to look after our health and our future, by listening to science and the experts, through this pandemic.

Our natural heritage underpins all of our lives and the lifestyles we enjoy in New South Wales, and we’ve also been glad to see the NSW government step up in recent months to protect our natural heritage on land.

I ask you to step up to protect our natural heritage in the oceans as well by restoring full protections in Batemans sanctuaries. The sanctuaries you’ve put at risk by allowing illegal fishing are as important as any in Batemans Marine Park. Four are in estuaries that hold important habitat for juvenile fish to grow to adulthood. Two others are next to our very special Montague Island - an IUCN Green Listed Protected Area and an important haul-out site for Australian Fur Seals, and home to a colony of Little Penguins. Removing sanctuary protection has subjected these incredible animals to increased risk of injury from vessel strike or entanglement for all this time.

Considering that the South Coast of NSW is a tourism magnet, and depends on tourism and hospitality sales of over $300 million, we can’t afford to have people turn away from our coasts if our marine environment is degraded.

Almost 9 out of 10 local people feel that the most important benefit of Batemans Marine Park ‘is that the area is passed onto future generations in good condition’. We call on you to honour us by protecting the sanctuaries.

We ask that you trust the marine science that continues to describe the multiple benefits of marine sanctuaries. Scientists have found, consistently, that no-take areas are a necessary part of managing marine environments to protect them against degradation, and to protect fish stocks that are important to both recreational and commercial fishing.

The six Batemans Marine Sanctuaries have been open to fishing for almost a year now. Despite assurances that scientists and the public will be consulted on these changes, this has not occurred.

We ask you to immediately remove the “amnesty” on illegal fishing in Batemans Sanctuaries. For us, for our kids, and for the future of our beautiful, bounteous, and irreplaceable South Coast. Montague Island, located off the South Coast, was among the first 25 sites to be granted so-called Green Listing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Documents obtained under freedom of information show both National Parks and IUCN raised concerns about the impact of easing protection. SMH: 'Worrying sign': Rollback of protection puts marine park status at risk