Support for marine zones

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Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times
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The boundaries and zoning of marine parks across the country will be changed under new plans. Illustration: Don Lindsay
Camera IconThe boundaries and zoning of marine parks across the country will be changed under new plans. Illustration: Don Lindsay Credit: The West Australian

Plans to reconfigure the boundaries and zoning of Federal marine parks in the Capes region have been welcomed by local industry groups and fishers, who are optimistic the changes will balance economic growth and environmental protection.

The Federal Government last week released the final draft of the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Plan, which in the Capes region encompasses the Geographe Commonwealth Marine Reserve and South-west Corner Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

Busselton Jetty marine scientist Sophie Teede said the Geographe Reserve was previously noted for Marine National Park status and was to receive Habitat Protection status under the proposed plan, but the area covered by the plan was now larger than initially proposed and also covered a sufficient area.

Ms Teede said while the plans did open the area to the possibility of commercial fishing, a large area of important seagrass and benthic habitat would become protected.

“All fishing methods would require approval before being undertaken in a Habitat Protection zone. Damaging long-lining would remain banned,” she said.

Another zoning change means oil and gas exclusion in the main special-purpose region, which Ms Teede said would protect not only the immediate marine environment but also the climate by reducing the impact of extracting fossil fuels.

Busselton fisherman Howie George said he supported the amended plans, which he believed continued to support fishing in the area. “Geographe Bay is a safe fishing area and it is important to keep it open to fishing; it is one of the main tourism drawcards to the region,” he said.

“Even if there was a case of over-fishing, the State Government could do what it has always done and step in and simply put in a seasonal closure on fishing to get the numbers back up.”

Protecting the marine environment was important but doing so should strike a balance with fishing, Mr George said. “If something needs protection I am in favour of that,” he said.

“We don’t want sanctuary zones to impact on a town’s tourism and we also don’t want it the other way, where tourism impacts on sanctuary zones.”

Ms Teede said the influence of the Leeuwin Current in the South West region and diversity in the seagrass meadows provided a unique environment for diverse marine life, making it an important area.

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