DANIEL MERCER, The West Australian
Updated December 19, 2011, 4:00 am
Sanctuary zones where all fishing is banned should be considered sparingly and only if there was overwhelming evidence of their need, according to WA's new marine parks adviser.
In his first interview as chairman of the Marine Parks and Reserves Authority, Tom Hatton said there was potential merit in "no-take" zones but they should not affect anglers unfairly.
Dr Hatton, a marine scientist and director at the CSIRO, indicated that he might also support controversial ideas put forward by recreational fishers opposed to sanctuary zones.
These include so-called wilderness fishing areas where recreational fishing was allowed but all other "extractive activities", such as commercial fishing and oil and gas drilling, were forbidden.
The comments are a significant departure from the position of Dr Hatton's predecessor, Eric Streitberg, who argued that sanctuary zones were essential if authorities were to protect valuable fish and marine species.
They also raised eyebrows among green groups as the Government thrashes out plans for a series of marine parks in State waters, including the much-touted Camden Sound proposal in the Kimberley.
"There's enough potential merit in (sanctuary zones) from place to place that they should be seriously considered," Dr Hatton said.
"But they need to be based on the best available scientific evidence and an understanding of potential impacts on recreational and commercial fishing and other users."
Environment Minister Bill Marmion said Dr Hatton would help create a world-class, comprehensive system of marine parks with two other MPRA board appointees.
Conservation Council of WA executive director Piers Verstegen said the appointments could weaken the resolve of the MPRA to establish marine parks with sanctuary zones.He feared Premier Colin Barnett would not deliver on his significant commitments to marine protection if MPRA appointments were out of step with the latest science and community sentiment.