Hunter and Central Coast anglers will not be subjected to new fishing lockout zones after the state government scrapped a key element of its marine park strategy following a massive backlash from fishing groups.
The backflip comes just weeks after the Berejiklian government unveiled plans for a new marine park consisting of 25 sites where fishing would be banned or restricted between Stockton and Wollongong.
Newcastle Commercial Fishermen's Co-operative manager Robert Gauta, who attended a meeting last Friday to discuss the implications of a proposed ban on commercial fishing in Tuggerah Lakes, said the backflip was a victory for common sense.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair confirmed on Monday the lockouts were "off the table", announcing the decision with more than a week to go before the consultation process concluded.
"One thing that is very clear to me as Minister for Fisheries is that the proposed lockout of fishers in the 25 sites is absolutely unacceptable," he said.
Lake Macquarie recreational angler Jason Nunn said the scrapped plan reflected a flawed community consultation process.
“Most recreational and commercial fishermen would have supported closing a specific area if there was evidence to show that it would help protect a specific species. But there wasn’t any evidence,” he said.
“The areas that they came up with were no better than a pin the tail on the donkey exercise. At the end of the day we need better management systems in our estuaries. Things like better enforcement of bag limits.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also came under pressure from members of her backbench to dump the policy, amid concerns the bans were politically unpopular, particularly in marginal seats where the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party had been campaigning.
Daisy Barham, a campaign director with the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said sanctuary zones were "really critical for preserving the marine environment."
"It's extremely disappointing to see that the minister has jumped the gun on his own consultation process and effectively has ruled out the people of NSW having a say," she said.
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