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Great Sandy Marine Park zoning changes to protect marine wildlife, great lifestyle: Linard

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The Hon. Leanne Linard, Minister of Environment (Qld), Media Release, 13 July 2023

The Palaszczuk Government is delivering on its commitment to protect marine threatened species and their habitats while supporting regional economies by increasing environmental protections within the Great Sandy Marine Park (GSMP).

The government has endorsed the outcomes of the GSMP Zoning Plan Review, which will now be included in the final zoning plan for the marine park.

In Hervey Bay to announce the outcomes of the zoning plan review, Environment Minister Leanne Linard said the final zoning plan will increase the proportion of marine national park (green) zones within the GSMP from 3.9 per cent to 12.8 per cent, contributing to a total of 28.6 per cent of the marine park being in highly-protected (green and yellow) zones to conserve the park’s biodiversity.

The final plan will also include the removal of commercial large mesh gillnets and ring nets from the yellow zones within Baffle Creek, Elliott River, Burrum River system, the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet.

Tunnel netting and set pocket netting will continue in various parts of the Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Inlet to ensure a supply of fresh local seafood and bait.

The Palaszczuk Government will also implement extra measures to further protect threatened species and the area’s cultural and amenity values, and increase funding for management of the marine park including community education, compliance and enforcement, given the increase in highly protected areas within the marine park.

As part of this, the Government will increase management capability, through a grant to the Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, whose Country covers much of the marine park, for an Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger program. 

To further support tourism and recreational fishing in the Wide Bay, the Palaszczuk Government will invest in new and enhanced boat ramps and artificial reefs in the region.

The increased protections will support the long-term conservation of threatened and iconic species and their habitats while supporting nature-based tourism, recreational, charter and sport fishing across the region.

The GSMP Zoning Plan Review involved consultation with the fishing sectors, First Nations peoples, scientists, local communities and conservation groups as well as local governments and representatives from the tourism sector.

Feedback gathered during the consultation period indicated strong support for the majority of the proposed changes to the marine park zones.

In response to community feedback, the boundaries of some specific green zones have been modified to reduce impacts on commercial and recreational fishers.

To address impacts to commercial fishing and seafood processing/wholesaling businesses, a comprehensive mitigation package will be developed.

The Palaszczuk Government will now work to update legislation to remake the zoning plan by 2024.

Quotes attributable to Environment Minister Leanne Linard:

“The Great Sandy Marine Park is a truly special place. It is home to vulnerable seagrass meadows and mangrove communities, some of the world’s most southerly coastal fringing coral reefs and species of international and national conservation significance such as shorebirds, grey nurse sharks, turtles and dugongs.

“However, the GSMP is currently the least protected marine park in Queensland.

“The zoning and management changes the government will implement will enhance protections for the region’s exceptional marine biodiversity, while also enhancing tourism and recreational fishing in the Wide Bay Burnett Region.

“The government undertook extensive consultation as part of the GSMP Zoning Plan Review which clearly showed that the majority of those consulted wanted enhanced protections for the Great Sandy Strait.

“The government acknowledges that there will be some impact on the commercial fishing operators who work these waters, as well as local seafood processors.

“That is why the government is funding a targeted compensation package as well as a regional economic enhancement package which will support new jobs in tourism, in servicing the recreational fishing sector and in aquaculture.

“This includes funding for new and enhanced boating infrastructure and artificial reefs.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Hervey Bay, Adrian Tantari:

“Fraser Coast locals and tourists to the area know how unique the Great Sandy Marine Park is.

“In October 2019, the Hervey Bay region was named the world’s first Whale Heritage Site by the World Cetacean Alliance.

“The public consultation undertaken on the draft zoning plan identified overwhelming support to further protect the area.

“Enhancing protections for the GSMP provides an opportunity for the region to become an international hub for marine scientific research and education, in addition to being a popular destination for tourists and recreational fishers.

Quotes attributable to Member for Maryborough, Bruce Saunders:

“The zoning changes being made are great news for recreational fishers.

“Under the final zoning plan, some 87.2 per cent of the Great Sandy Marine Park will remain available for recreational fishing and crabbing.

“The evidence shows that the rezoning will also improve fish stocks. After the rezoning of the Moreton Bay Marine Park in 2009, there was a considerable increase in catch rates.

“The Palaszczuk Government’s investment in new and enhanced boat ramps is also welcomed as it will make it easier for locals and visitors to get out on the water.”

Further information:

The Great Sandy Marine Park is located in the Wide Bay-Burnett Region and extends from Double Island Point in the south to Baffle Creek in the north.

The marine park covers an area of more than 6,000 square kilometres and includes Hervey Bay, the Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Inlet and Queensland coastal waters.

The Great Sandy Marine Park surrounds the K’gari (Fraser Island) World Heritage Area and is an area of exceptionally high natural and cultural value.

This includes:

  • The Great Sandy Strait—a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance.
  • Species of international and national significance—marine turtles, dugongs, grey nurse sharks, humpback whales, Australian humpback dolphins and migratory shorebirds.
  • 11 declared Fish Habitat Areas protecting key fish habitats to support the state’s recreational and commercial fisheries.
  • Culturally and spiritually significant sea Country for the Butchulla, Bailai (Byeellee), Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng, Taribelang Bunda and Kabi Kabi First Nations peoples.

The management and use of the GSMP is guided by the Marine Parks (Great Sandy) Zoning Plan 2017 which is subordinate legislation under the Marine Parks Act 2004.

The Palaszczuk Government undertook a comprehensive review of the zoning plan to assess its continued need, effectiveness and efficiency at conserving the environment.

In September 2022, a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement, which incorporated the draft revised GSMP Zoning Plan was released for public consultation.

During the consultation period the Department of Environment and Science held more than 40 stakeholder meetings and received 1245 online survey responses and 215 written submissions. Two additional written submission ‘campaigns’ were received, by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (4056 letters) and the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (1066 letters). One submission was received from the Great Sandy Alliance which represented the views of 26 organisations primarily from the conservation sector plus a number of tourism businesses.

The Decision Regulatory Impact Statement and summary document is available from www.qld.gov.au/greatsandymarinepark.

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