More than 200 marine scientists have signed a petition urging the NSW government not to take a 'backwards step' by allowing fishing in once-protected marine parks.
The petition, signed by 222 scientists from Australia and abroad, asks Premier Barry O'Farrell to keep sanctuary zones free from fishing.
Sanctuary zones are areas within marine parks where fishing have been off-limits. In March 2013, the government decided to temporarily allow recreational fishing in these zones as part of an overhaul of the way marine parks are managed.
Will Figueira, president of the NSW branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, said that decision was not based on scientific research and was made without consultation.
'Choosing to allow fishing in no-take zones definitely goes against the advice from the broader scientific community,' said Dr Figueira. 'If you want to have natural areas, you need to stop extracting from those areas.'
Dr Figueira believes a government decision on the issue of sanctuary zones is imminent and hopes Mr O'Farrell will heed the petition's warnings.
Greens NSW fisheries spokesman Dr Mehreen Faruqi said the government should listen to scientists rather than its 'grubby political deals' with the Shooters and Fishers Party, which the Greens have accused of striking a deal with the coalition over public sector wages laws.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson confirmed her office had received the petition and that the department was considering the Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel's assessment of recreational fishing in sanctuary zones.
'The NSW government is committed to ensuring a science-based approach - which considers environmental, social and economic impacts - is used in the management of the marine estate,' she said.
More at www.amsa.asn.au