Creating a Sydney Marine Park

weedy sea dragonAfter my successful motion in the recent Council meeting the City of Sydney  has announced it will support the establishment of a Sydney Marine Park.

Sydney is known by locals and tourists as a prime ‘harbour city’, with international recognition for our beaches and oceans. Promotional photos of our shores show an inviting shroud of pristine waters. However this façade is broken by the damning evidence of the many issues harming our marine life and polluting our waters.

Currently, plastic pollution is at crisis point across NSW and beyond, and is fast damaging our marine ecosystems. Reports demonstrate that the bottom of Sydney Harbour is littered with widespread microplastic pollution – much of which, ultimately ends up on our plate. Tasmanian Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson summed it up well, comparing Australia’s oceans to a “plastic soup”.

This, along with such issues as climate change impacts, top soil erosion from land clearing, the human destruction of habitat and fishing practices, leaves our marine ecosystems intensely vulnerable, and in dire need of our protection.

The Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion – including Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury region is being considered as a targeted area for conservation measures. A Sydney Marine Park, which includes significant marine sanctuary zoning, will enhance this protection from the noted dangers that our waters face.

Whilst the NSW Government is considering their options over how to act, it is essential that we promote the benefits of an extended marine park with the needed sanctuary zones. These are evidence-based models that ensure conservation. The Marine Parks Authority demonstrated this in their research in the Jervis Bay Marine Park – with the red morwong fish being found in significantly greater numbers when compared to fished areas. In other areas, marine life such as mud crabs are found not only in greater abundance, but with their average size consistently greater.

The Sydney Marine Park would be multi-use, in the same way that our six other marine parks are, including recreational, commercial, and industrial zones. However, importantly, it would also include marine sanctuaries (currently covering only 7% of NSW) – that would prohibit all activities of extraction and focus entirely on the protection of marine life.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society states that when over 1000 residents of NSW were asked, 93% support marine sanctuaries, with 91% of recreational fishers supporting the initiative. This is a project with significant community support. Similar to national parks, the Sydney Marine Park will ensure that protective measures are put in place to protect the many endangered marine animals and sea life.

Considering the State Government’s current draft policy on biodiversity laws that in effect, promote land-clearing, we cannot afford to ease pressure nor can we trust state government to act in the best interests of our environment.

The Lord Mayor will write to Environment and Heritage Minister Mark Speakman, and Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Lands and Water Niall Blair, urging the government to declare a Sydney Marine Park in the targeted Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion.

You can see my Notice of Motion here.



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