The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC) has been urging the state government for a number of years to improve protection for the Grey Nurse Shark .
Recent Changes to Protection
The CVCC welcomed the improved protection provided under the new zonings early in the year - although we would have liked to have seen even stronger protection for this extremely vulnerable species. In May we were dismayed at the downgrading of protection announced by the new Minister.
We note the comments in the discussion paper (Discussion paper for Grey Nurse Shark Protection, Department of Primary Industries, May 2011) that the rules introduced early in 2011 were contentious and claims were made that there was insufficient community consultation before they were introduced.It is quite obvious that the former government's zoning was very contentious to a vocal group whose interest was in access to favourite fishing spots, rather than in considering the medium to long-term survival of the Grey Nurse Shark.
We dispute the claims about insufficient public consultation. The whole process of changing the zonings took several years, involved detailed scientific study, the exhibition for several months of the proposed changes, community consultation involving around 70 stakeholder meetings and the consideration of around 10,000 submissions on the proposed changes.
We are concerned that the windback of protection was made for political rather than scientific reasons and pre-empted the review which the new government had promised and which it is now undertaking.
We hope that the process being undertaken now will result in a decision being made based on science and not political expediency.
CVCC View on Improved Protection
The CVCC considers that improved protection for the Grey Nurse Shark is vital given
· the low numbers of this species in NSW waters
· its very low reproductive rate
· its vulnerability to accidental hooking where fishing with bait takes place nearby
· the likelihood of mortality from accidental hooking
Recreational bait fishing should be prohibited at all sites identified as critical habitat for Grey Nurse Sharks.
Furthermore the CVCC believes that other major aggregation sites currently not protected (such as Mermaid Reef and South Solitary Island) should also be off-limits to recreational bait fishing.
Impact on Recreational Fishers
The fact that providing appropriate protection around major aggregation sites will impact on recreational fishers is unfortunate but the short-term personal interests of this group should not be allowed to over-ride the long-term interests of an important species in the marine ecosystem. For years now humanity has been receiving wakeup calls about the widespread threats to biodiversity all around the globe and increasingly people are coming to accept that we have a responsibility to preserve biodiversity. Indeed our survival as a species depends on maintaining healthy ecosystems. The recreational fishers must play their part along with the rest of the community.
Scientific Basis for Increased Protection
It is quite obvious to the CVCC that the studies undertaken in recent years and referred to in the Discussion Paper provide a solid basis of scientific evidence to support greatly enhanced protection for the Grey Nurse Shark.