The National Parks Association CEO, Kevin Evans, has cautiously welcomed today's long anticipated announcement from the NSW Baird Government of its intention to improve marine protection in the Sydney metro region pending results of yet another year-long study.

“Although Minister Stokes is to be congratulated for finally convincing his reluctant cabinet colleagues that marine protection is important, the government continues to send conflicting messages to the community on their marine estate strategy.

It is difficult to trust an announcement from this government to protect more of our marine environment when for the past two years it has allowed fishing in marine sanctuaries. A decision the Premier never supported in the first place, but has done nothing to reverse.

Surely the first priority of this government should have been to end the amnesty that allows fishing in these vitally important marine sanctuaries before announcing their intention to “protect” new marine areas.

A year-long study will begin early in 2015 into new conservation areas for the Sydney region that could lead to the creation of marine protection parks in an area stretching from Newcastle to Wollongong. This would be a great outcome for Sydney’s marine environment.

While successive NSW governments have dithered for years about increasing marine protection, the global goal posts have changed significantly. At the recent World Parks Congress meeting on Sydney, where the government had been expected to declare its intention to create a marine park for Sydney, but didn’t, the IUCN made the recommendation to urgently increase its global target and strictly protect 30% of each marine habitat by 2030. At less than 6% of NSW waters strictly protected, we still have a lot more work to do.

The 11 sites in the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion are to be monitored in the study announced by the Baird government, include parts of Sydney Harbour, Broken Bay, Botany Bay and Port Hacking. These areas would need to be afforded full sanctuary protection and be sufficiently large if they are to be anything other than “paper parks”.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes said the research at these priority sites would: "inform decision making about the creation of an integrated marine protected area along the metro coast by 2016". We will hold the Minister to his word.

"Ahead of the March 2015 state election the NSW Labor has already promised, if elected, that it will immediately establish a marine park between Pittwater and Port Hacking”. Mr Evans concluded.

Media Contacts: Kevin Evans 0457 797 977

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