NSW Minister for Primary Industries responds to Marine Park fears

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NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair.

FISHING World today interviewed NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair about the widespread condemnation from anglers since the Government's Sydney Marine Park announcement.

“We know some people don't like any restrictions at all on these areas, but this is just a proposal. What we're asking is if people do have any concerns, there's a consultation period now to make their voices heard,” said Minister Blair.

“I'm not surprised by some of the reactions. There are some things in here though which have never been seen done before. For example we have catch & release zones,” he said.

“This isn't just a big lazy lock out, and that's unfortunately what the opposition is proposing as an alternative. What we have here are very specific management areas and management approaches that may also allow us to open up other marine parks to similar approaches in the future.

“I can understand people are concerned, I want to hear those concerns. We need people to put those concerns in during the consultation period before a final decision is made,” said Blair.

Rock fishos along Sydney's Eastern Suburbs have been the target of a Government safety initiative to reduce rock fishing deaths. Measures such as mandatory lifejackets and education programs have made headlines over the past few months. Critics of the recent Marine Park proposal fear the vast area between Bondi and Coogee could hamper these efforts and force rock fishers off safe ledges onto the riskier platforms further south.

“Again we want to get the balance right and we want to make sure whatever the outcome is we can continue to push that safety message when it comes to rock fishing,” said Blair.

“Again, this is our opportunity go back and have a good look at that feedback. Sometimes when it comes to the fishing side, we have to walk both sides of the argument. Being the agency responsible for fish habitat and looking after the estuaries and balancing the access issues for anglers is always a tricky one for us.”

While the proposed Marine Park highlights 25 areas as possible rec fishing closures, Blair admits pollution is the number one threat to Sydney's marine environment.

“The number thing that will have the best outcome will be the issues to address the highest risk, which is pollution, and that's why there's a lot of money coming with this package,” said Blair

“There is a lot of money going into onshore activity that is cleaning up the water, which will have a positive impact on the marine environment. And as I said, some of the spatial areas that have been identified and the reason they have been identified is to get better outcome and recovery in those areas. That's what the experts have told us and we want to hear what the industry and community think about those proposals as well.”

Questions have been raised over proposed lock-outs along some of Sydney’s popular dive sites.

“Again, we're happy to look at the feedback. When you have a whole range of different stakeholders it's about trying to get as much balance as possible,” he said.

“I understand these concerns have been raised with me directly and we will look at these during the feedback period before the government makes a final determination on balance.”

The Minister insists the best way for ensuring fishos’ concerns are heard is to make a submission before September 27 this year.

“Speak up and put a submission in now,” he said.

“Is it perfect? No, but I don't think you'll ever get a perfect outcome in this situation. Is it better than the alternative? Absolutely.

“Just have a look at what Labor is offering as an alternative. But we need to hear from fishers now and we need to hear what those sites are that they want to remain open and this is the period that we're listening to their concerns,” said Blair.

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