The state government has given recreational fishers the green light to cast a line at 10 beaches and headland reserves between Batemans Bay and Cape Byron that were previously under Marine Parks protection but the exercise has been labeled a missed opportunity in Port Stephens.
The beaches were placed out of bounds for fishers when Marine Parks were established over 10 years ago for environmental reasons.
Inspectors have turned the other cheek for the past five years under an amnesty agreement while the NSW Department of Primary Industries reviewed the sanctuaries.
Among the 10 beaches effectively re-opened through rezoning include Celito South (Seal Rocks) and Fiona Beach, north of Mungo Brush, in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
"It will make little difference to us," Fingal Bay fishing columnist and Marine Parks Advisory Council member John "Stinker" Clarke said.
"What we've really been waiting for is a meaningful review of the sanctuary zones because they were all brought in with a rush and some areas don't need to be off limits."
One area that Mr Clarke said was in need of review was the red zone between Little Beach and Jimmys Beach, specifically Zenith and The Wrecks.
"The reviews they've promised haven't happened. That red zone is meant to be a rest area for dolphins but it just doesn't happen, it’s not a rest area. In the meantime you can't remove a single fish or so much as a piece of drift wood,” he said.
"For someone like me who is a supporter of Marine Parks - I lobbied for them - it's been a little disappointing.”
The rezoning announced on Friday followed 6600 submissions from the public. The re-opened beaches for the most part being remote and only accessible on foot, are considered to be under little fishing pressure.
“Following a five-year amnesty on compliance action with regard to recreational line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands zoned sanctuary, these changes now bring certainty for our state’s fishers," NSW Department of Primary Industries deputy director general, Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan, said
“Approximately one million people in NSW go out fishing at least once a year. It is a fun activity for the entire family, and supports regional communities."
A total of 43 km of the NSW coastline will remain in sanctuary zones, which extend 100 metres from the shoreline.
The NSW Conservation Council expressed disappointment over the decision.
“The government has just halved the length of coastline with the highest level of environmental protection from 87km to just 43km,” campaigns director Daisy Barham said.
“This decision is a blow for marine conservation and for coastal communities whose economies rely on marine parks and the presence of a healthy marine environment."