No sanctuary for Sceale Bay seals

Swimming sea lions: Australian sea lions swimming in the waters off of Jones Island.
Swimming sea lions: Australian sea lions swimming in the waters off of Jones Island.

FRIENDS of Sceale Bay have criticised the recent plan for marine sanctuary zones for excluding several Australia sea lion breeding grounds on the West Coast.

The controversial plan has been drawn up to put in place sanctuary or ‘no take’ zones within South Australia’s 19 marine parks to protect areas deemed to have environmental significance or are important areas for marine animals.

But Friends of Sceale Bay said the sanctuary zones should also important Australian sea lion colonies including on Nicholas Baudin Island in Sceale Bay, which they said is the seventh largest breeding colony in the world.

The group also argues a smaller colony at Jones Island in Baird Bay should also be included as a sanctuary zone.

Friends of Sceale Bay convener David Letch said the inclusion of key Australian sea lion breeding colonies at Sceale Bay and Baird Bay are important steps to continue the campaign for preserving the species.

“We need to expand protection of marine habitat at all sea lion colonies in the Chain of Bays Marine Park,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the group has lobbied for protection of Nicholas Baudin Island, in 2002 they prevented a kingfish farm being located three kilometres off the island and they also successfully lobbied the Rann Government to declare the island as a Conservation Park and Aquatic Reserve.

The group said a larger sanctuary zone should extend around the Baudin Island colony and along the intersecting ocean zone and cliffs off Cape Blanche past Slade Point into Searcy Bay, which would also preserve habitat for endangered coastal raptors including the White Bellied Sea Eagle and Eastern Osprey.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the current plan is just a Government proposal at the moment and will be up for public review in the coming months, which will give groups like Friends of Sceale Bay a futher opportunity to contribute.

A DENR spokesperson said from a regional review incorporating parks 1-4, key breeding and foraging areas for Australian sea lions have been well represented in the plan.

“Proposed sanctuary zones around the Pearson, Cap and St Francis Isles groups, as well as Nuyts Reef and Bunda Cliffs offer protection to significant Australian sea lion sites and foraging areas,” the spokesperson said.

DENR is also receiving criticism from the South Australian Marine Parks Management Alliance (SAMPMA) for postcards distributed which claimed “an agreement has been reached between the conservation, recreational and commercial fishing sectors on zoning for SA’s marine parks.”

SAMPMA Chairman Dr Gary Morgan said the claim isn’t only incorrect but is mischievous and demonstrates the Department is out of control.

“The commercial fishing industry and other stakeholders have been working in good faith over the past few months with Minister (Paul) Caica and the Premier to try and achieve a fair and lasting settlement to the long running issue of marine parks in this State,” he said.

“However this type of propaganda, of which the Minister’s office was apparently unaware, runs the real risk of destroying any faith fishermen have in the collaborative process.”

The DENR spokesperson said despite this the Government is keen to continue working closely with SAMPMA and they will continue work on the plan.

“The Government is keen to progress to public review of draft management with zoning in the coming months,” the spokesperson said.

The Department is hoping to have the plan finalised by the end of the year.

This story No sanctuary for Sceale Bay seals first appeared on West Coast Sentinel.