'Sanctuary stoush' nets run of letters to editor

Our story 'Sanctuary stoush' quickly drew letters from readers. We publish the following in the order they were submitted.

I regularly visit my family down the South Coast of NSW.

I enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling and ocean swimming. I always look forward to diving multiple places in the Batemans Marine Park, such as the Toll Gate Islands, the Burrewarra Wall, Guerilla Bay and, of course, Montague Island.

The seals, grey nurse sharks and sponge gardens are spectacular. Its been incredibly sad to see the loss of marine life with the opening up of the little sanctuary zones we have to recreational fishing. These zones take 10-15 years to really start to boom with life, so opening them up to fishing undoes a decade or so of conservation gains virtually overnight. It seems a big price for a short period of better-than-average fishing. The science is crystal clear on marine sanctuaries; if they are big enough, they not only counter the loss of species that are fished heavily, both recreationally and commercially, but they also have the ability to reseed surrounding waters with many more times the fish eggs and larvae than fished areas could produce. Our blue backyard should be protected for all those who want to see life flourishing in sanctuary zones and those who want to recreationally fish the surrounding waters for food. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. If we do both, everyone benefits. - Sharnie Connell, Killarney Vale

The point of a marine park is to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem integrity and function. In addition, research has shown improvements in fish numbers and sizes in sanctuary zones.

The original zone boundaries were established after extensive community consultation, including numerous meetings and submissions and negotiations around the objectives of specific groups. Mr Creagh needs to understand the importance of trying to produce outcomes that reflect the views of the community as a whole, not just his own opinions.

Mr Creagh twists the outcome of the Marine Estate Management Authority's threat and risk assessment. Its concerns about pollution were focused on estuaries such as Sydney Harbour. For marine waters, the assessment rated fishing, climate change and development as greater threats than pollution.

The Nature Coast Marine Group supports responsible fishing. Our main objective is to promote a healthy marine environment into the future. Nick Blackman, Moruya

I grew up in a fishing family on the Far South Coast. During my childhood/adult life I have spent 1000s of hours diving and fishing in these waters. Over time I have noticed many reefs appear less lively. It has become harder to obtain shellfish, such as abalone, which seem to be targeted at a greater rate, given Australia's growing population. Spearfishing has also led to a decline in species such as red mowong and banded mowong, which are slow-growing reef species.

For these reasons I have changed my activities in the ocean. I no longer feel it is right to take the species mentioned. Marine parks can provide us with a way of supporting our current fisheries management strategies. The scientific evidence strongly supports the benefits both environmentally and economically that marine parks have. Scott Proctor, Wollongong

The zones were originally to preserve fish stocks that some people believed were under threat, yet I can find no evidence to support this theory. It should be taken into consideration that most anglers do the right thing and only take what they need and abide by the NSW fishing regulations and bag limits. These were introduced to maintain fish stocks, so why close off areas to recreational fishing?

Recreational fishers assist in tagging of fish and would not want to see the fish stocks diminished. These "no-take zones" show that the powers-that-be just do not trust the recreational anglers to do the right thing. The nanny state rises again. Stanton Fitchett, Kameruka

I have been spearfishing around most of the "no-take zones" well before they were introduced and am now limited to the areas outside of these zones. The change I have observed in these areas is not an increase in fish stocks, but rather a dramatic decrease in the fish that spear fishermen target. I do not know how much of this decrease could be attributed to the population increase of seals in these areas or to other factors. As most fishermen strongly adhere to the rules in these areas, I can only deduce that these stock reductions cannot be blamed on the fishermen. John Schulter, South Durras

This story 'Sanctuary stoush' nets run of letters to editor first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.