Media Release Marine Parks

Byron celebrates an epic history of protection for marine sanctuaries

August 30, 2022

The Byron community’s decades-long effort to protect almost a third of the Cape Byron Marine Park in fishing-free sanctuaries will be celebrated with an event at the Stone & Wood Brewery on 8 September.

Co-hosted by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and the National Parks Association, and supported by Patagonia Byron, the event will feature live music, short films celebrating the local marine environment, and a discussion panel of experts and locals who are working to ensure Cape Byron Marine Park and its wonders are protected.

Around 28% of the Cape Byron Marine Park is currently protected by sanctuary zones.  However, the park is relatively small, covering only 1.8% of the overall Tweed-Moreton marine bioregion which straddles NSW and Queensland. A bioregion is an area with unique geographic characteristics, including habitat and marine life.

Locals have been campaigning since 1983 to expand the sanctuary zones – where no fishing is allowed – and are continuing to call for more protections for the bioregion.

Conservation campaigner Alice Forrest, who will be among the speakers at the event, said: “I’ve spent countless hours snorkelling in these waters, encountering friendly turtles or awe-inspiring sharks. I have had the privilege of watching whales from my kayak as they undertake their huge migration and have floated eye-to-eye with manta rays.

“If we can bring the community together to call for more sanctuary protection for the area, this will help ensure many others can have similar encounters.”

Over the past couple of decades, local conservationists say there has been inadequate progress in expanding  the sanctuary network across the local bioregion to ensure the local unique wildlife is protected.

Dailan Pugh, who helped to establish the high level of sanctuary area inside the park, said that for over 20 years the science has proved that fish populations and diversity increases inside marine sanctuaries, and that we urgently need to include 30-50% of all marine ecosystems in strictly protected marine sanctuaries to safeguard their future.

“After 20 years of campaigning we still only have 6.5% of the NSW section of Tweed-Moreton Marine Bioregion in sanctuary zones, with many important areas and ecosystems missing,” said Dalian, who will also be speaking at the event.

“In the unfolding climate and extinction crises we need to redouble our efforts to fully protect enough of our seas to safeguard this region’s unique ecosystems and wildlife, including fish, sharks and turtles.”

Serge Killingbeck, who also helped to establish the park, said there is much pride in the protections already achieved.

“I knew we’d come a long way when real estate agents started referring to the marine park as “outside your front door” in their ads, instead of complaining the park would ruin tourism and impact on house prices. It did neither,” said Serge.

“Those who opposed the park and sought to undermine the conservation values it represents have fallen away,” he said.

Tickets for the Celebrating our Sanctuaries event are $10 and are available from the event website.