Batemans Marine Park Sanctuary Zones

The following Q&As explain the NSW Government's action that has wound back sanctuary zones in the Batemans Marine Park.  For general information on the Marine Estate in NSW and the Batemans Marine Park, including a map of zones in the Park, click here.

Sanctuary Zones

Why are sanctuary zones important?

Sanctuary zones are the only areas of marine parks where all the plants and animals are protected from all types of fishing and collecting. This means the whole food web is preserved and allowed to maintain a healthy balance of predators and prey. Big fish are the top predators and only big fish such as large snapper (a favourite fishing target), blue groper and large lobsters are able to prey on long-spined sea urchins to prevent their populations increasing and eating out the kelp forests.

How do sanctuary zones increase fish populations?

Sanctuary zones are the only areas where fish are likely to grow bigger than the regulation fishing size limit. Bigger fish spawn more eggs and so produce more offspring. The sanctuary zones in lakes and estuaries protect important habitats such as mangroves and seagrass beds that provide spawning and nursery areas to allow the juvenile fish to survive and grow. They then spill over into the unprotected areas where they can be fished.

What do scientists say about sanctuary zones?

Scientists have shown that fish increase in both number, diversity and size in sanctuary zones compared with fished areas.

They recommend that:

  • at least 30% of a Marine Park should be protected in sanctuaries. Batemans Marine Park has less than 20% protected sanctuary zones
  • the larger the area of sanctuary zones and the longer the time marine environments are protected, the more effective are sanctuary zones, and
  • sanctuary zones should protect the full range of different habitats, such as rocky reefs, beaches, lakes and estuaries.

Read the scientific evidence.

Australian Marine Sciences Association, Position Statement on Marine Protected Area, October 2019 Harasti, D., Davis, T.R., Jordan, A., Erskine, L., Moltschaniwskyj, N., Illegal recreational
fishing causes a decline in a fishery targeted species (Snapper: Chrysophrys auratus) within a remote no-take marine protected area
, PLoS ONE, 14(1): e0209926., pone.0209926, 2019
Edgar, G.J., Ward, T.J. and Stuart‐Smith, R.D., Rapid declines across Australian fishery stocks indicate global sustainability targets will not be achieved without an expanded network of ‘no‐fishing’ reserves, Aquatic Conservation Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, June 2018, pp. 1-14 Navarroa, M.,Kragta, M.E., Hailua, A. and Langloisb, T.J., Recreational fishers’ support for no-take marine reserves is high and increases with reserve age, Marine Policy, 96, (2018), pp.44-52 Kelaher, B.P., Coleman, M.A., Broad, A., Rees, M.J., Jordan, A. and Davis, A.R., Changes in Fish Assemblages following the Establishment of a Network of No-Take Marine Reserves and Partially-Protected Areas, PLoS ONE 9(1): e85825. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085825, 2014 Harrison, H.B., Williamson , D.H., Evans, R.D., Almany, G.R., Thorrold, S.R., Russ, G.R., Feldheim, K.A., van Herwerden, L., Planes, S., Srinivasan, M., Berumen, M.L. and Jones, G.P., Larval Export from Marine Reserves and the Recruitment Benefit for Fish and Fisheries, Current Biology, 22, (2012), pp.1023-1028 Russ, G.R., and Alcala, A.C., Enhanced biodiversity beyond marine reserve boundaries: The cup spillith over, Ecological Applications, 21(1), (2011), pp.241–250 Lester, S.E., Halpern, B.S., Grorud-Colvert, K., Lubchenco, J., Ruttenberg, B.I., Gaines, S.D., Airamé, S. and Warner, R.R., Biological effects within no-take marine reserves: a global synthesis, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 384 (2009), pp.33–46 Stewart, G.B., Kaiser, M.J., Côté, I.M, Halpern, B.S., Lester, S.L., Bayliss H.R. and Pullin, A.S., Temperate marine reserves: global ecological effects and guidelines for future networks, Conservation Letters, 2 (2009) pp.243–253 Claudet, J.,, Marine Reserves: size and age do matter, Ecology Letters, 11, (2008), pp. 481-489 Lester, S.E. and Halpern, B.S., Biological responses in marine no-take reserves versus partially protected areas, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 367, (2008), pp. 49-56 Barrett, N.S., Edgar, G.J., Buxton, C.D. and Haddon, M., Changes in fish assemblages following 10 years of protection in Tasmanian marine protected areas, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 345 (2007), pp.141-157 Denny, C.M. and Babcock, R.C., Do partial marine reserves protect reef fish assemblages?, Biological Conservation, 116(1), (2003), pp.119-129 Mosquera, I, Côté, I.M., Jennings, S. and Reynolds, J.D., Conservation benefits of marine reserves for fish populations, Animal Conservation, 4, (2000), pp.321–332 Tuya, F.C., Soboil, M. and Kido, J., An assessment of the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in the San Juan Islands, Washington, USA, Journal of Marine Science, 57 (2000), pp.1218-1226

Changes to Sanctuary Zones in Batemans Marine Park

What is the government trying to do now to BMP sanctuary zones?

In December 2019, an amnesty was introduced to immediately allow fishing in six sanctuary zones in BMP. This amnesty was declared via a Media Release. The decision was taken without scientific advice, without public consultation and without following the government’s own principles for decision-making with regard to the marine environment.

What consultations should have taken place?

The NSW law says there must be a two-month period of public consultation before regulations covering zoning and use of areas in marine parks can be amended.

Who should the government have consulted with?

To ensure Marine Parks operate effectively, the Government should have consulted with a range of experts and interested groups such as, scientists, public servants, marine park officers, Traditional Owners, ecotourism businesses and the oyster and abalone industries. The community, as prominent users of the BMP, are also an important part of the consultation process.

When will the Government consult?

We expect this consultation period to commence very soon.

As soon as consultation begins, the NCMG will be looking for lots of help to lobby the Government to remove the amnesty and maintain all our existing sanctuary zones. See details below.

What happens after the two-month consultation period?

Although the amnesty permitting recreational fishing has already been put in place, it is hoped the government will review all submissions in good faith. It will then take a final decision as to whether to proceed with the roll-backs as set out in the amnesty or whether it will modify them in some way. This review may take some time after the close of submissions, during which those who are concerned can continue to lobby the responsible ministers and other politicians. They can also continue to keep the issue alive in the public arena.

NCMG needs your help

The NCMG is preparing for a campaign to lobby against the loss of these sanctuary zones.

We need all the help we can get, so please join us to swell our ranks.

Write a letter expressing your disappointment

A good start is writing to the NSW Ministers responsible for this decision, the NSW Minister for Primary Industries and the NSW Minister for the Environment.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has released the information below.


Batemans Marine Park:

Amnesty on six sanctuary zones:

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