TWO areas of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes marine park would be opened up to recreational fishing if a state government proposal proceeds.
It is proposed to allow shore-based line fishing at Celito South Beach and Fiona Beach near Port Stephens. The areas are part of 10 beaches or headlands currently included in marine park areas.
The move has divided recreational fishers and conservationists.
‘‘The Nature Conservation Council will be making a strong case to the government that the marine sanctuaries should be fully restored and new areas across the state considered for protection,’’ the council’s campaigns director Daisy Barham said.
‘‘This will be a crucial test for Mike Baird who says that protecting our marine environment is important to him.’’
But Tea Gardens recreational fisherman Andrew Sharp welcomed the move to relax recreational fishing restrictions.
‘‘It’s a small token but it’s much appreciated,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously they [the government] doesn’t consider shore-based rod and reel based fishing to be a major threat.’’
Mr Sharp said he supported the marine parks concept but said their establishment needed to be based on scientific research.
‘‘We support marine parks, but they need to be established based on scientific evidence,’’ he said.
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The state presently has six marine parks including Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Port Stephens-Great Lakes, Jervis Bay, Batemans and Lord Howe Island.
Four of the parks will be affected by the proposed zoning changes.
Less than 7 per cent of the state’s coastal waters are fully protected in marine sanctuaries.
The Newcastle Herald reported in July that a notorious spot for rock fishermen just south of the Lake Macquarie border could become a marine conservation area, under a NSW government plan.
Wybung Head is part of the Munmorah State Conservation Area, not far from Catherine Hill Bay.
It is one of 15 areas it was investigating to improve “marine biodiversity conservation in the Hawkesbury shelf marine bioregion”.
This bioregion stretches from Newcastle to Shellharbour, near Wollongong.