Criticisms of science, social impacts, opinion leaders, and targets for no-take zones led to cuts in New South Wales' (Australia) system of marine protected areas

John Wiley & Sons
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Journal Article
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 2014, 24 (3), pp. 287 - 296
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On 12 March 2013 the state Government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, announced a new approach to managing its marine environment (including calling it the `marine estate). This included announcing an amnesty on recreational shore-based fishing in all ocean beach and headland sanctuary zones (i.e. no-take) in its State-wide system of large multiple-use marine protected areas (MPAs), called marine parks, and a moratorium on declaring more marine parks (NSW Government, 2013a). The NSW Government Ministers responsible for marine parks stated `decisions around the management of the NSW marine estate will now be based on science and in the long term interest of community, marine ecosystems and industry. The NSW Government is delivering on its election commitment for a common sense marine parks policyAfter years of political interference and decisions based on poor or incomplete sciencethe credibility of Marine Parks and our fishing industries has been undermined (NSW Government, 2013a), and `There is little or no scientific basis for preventing line fishing from landWe are immediately giving an amnesty to that (The Coffs Coast Advocate, 2013). Despite the relatively minor change in total area of no-take zones in NSWs marine parks this decision attracted the most attention from conservation groups, recreational fishing groups and scientists. However, the changes announced also included a potentially far-reaching shift in policy approach to biodiversity conservation away from the nationally agreed precautionary use of a representative network of MPAs to a risk-based framework. Australia has been implementing a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA) as a uniform national approach to conserve marine biodiversity. In 1998 the governments of Australia with marine coasts (i.e. the Commonwealth, all States, the Northern Territory) undertook to establish the NRSMPA by 2012 to achieve national goals for sustainable development (Commonwealth of Australia, 1992) and biodiversity conservation (Commonwealth of Australia, 1996), and comply with international obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The process of short-listing, selecting and designing MPAs that would form part of the NRSMPA has been guided by goals and principles agreed to by all these governments (ANZECC, 1999) to ensure a consistent approach to biodiversity conservation. The most recent review of the implementation of the NRSMPA documented significant progress in the identification of candidate MPAs, the development of new management plans, and the establishment of new MPAs (National Marine Protected Areas Working Group, 2008). But in recent years there have been slow-downs in the establishment of new MPAs and proposed changes in existing MPAs, not only in NSW but also in other Australian states and in Commonwealth waters. In July 2010 the State Government of Victoria announced a moratorium on the establishment of any further MPAs (leaving 11.7% of the States waters as MPAs and gaps in the implementation of Victorias contribution to the NRSMPA). In February 2014 the Premier of Queensland announced a proposal to reduce the size of a no-take zone within the Moreton Bay Marine Park to allow shore-based recreational fishing within it (16% of the Park is no-take zones) (Queensland Government, 2014) and the States National Parks Minister invited recreational fishers to nominate other no-take zones in which they would like the right to catch fish (Courier Mail, 2014). The new incoming Liberal State Government in Tasmania said, before its March 15 election win, that it would impose a moratorium on any new MPAs in the States waters (Tasmanian Liberals, 2014). At that time 7.9% of Tasmanian coastal waters was MPA, with most of that being around sub-antarctic Macquarie Island (Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, 2014)...
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