WA’s peak fishing industry body says the State Government must do more to reassure commercial fishers their livelihoods will not be jeopardised by a new South Coast Marine Park, claiming they are being left in the dark over which areas are being considered for strict sanctuary zones. The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions began consultation on the design and management of the new marine park extending east from Bremer Bay to the WA border in late 2021. The future multi-use park aims to protect marine biodiversity and cultural heritage, while allowing recreational activities and commercial fishing to continue sustainably. But WA Fishing Industry Council chief executive Darryl Hockey said despite WAFIC and commercial fishers “constructively participating” in the marine park planning, they had seen “little reciprocity from DBCA”. WAFIC representatives toured Esperance, Bremer Bay and Albany to speak with commercial fishers earlier this month. “There’s definitely a high degree of anxiety that their livelihoods will be damaged, the fishers have clearly seen what happened in other marine parks where the impacts on the commercial fishing industry and local seafood supplies were ignored,” Mr Hockey said. “There’s been a lack of genuine engagement from DBCA, we can’t get simple answers to simple questions, they can’t even tell us whether certain estuaries or beaches are being considered.” Mr Hockey said Albany commercial fishers had previously been let down during the establishment of aquaculture development zones off Albany and wanted to be actively involved in the early planning of the marine park. WA marine parks can feature four types of zones; general use, recreation, special purpose and sanctuary. The latter zone provides the highest level of protection for marine life with all types of fishing and collecting banned. Nature-based activities such as snorkelling, boating and wildlife watching are allowed. Mr Hockey said commercial fishers wanted to know the areas DBCA were considering for sanctuary zones so they could offer input, with local fishers concerned about a 30-40km stretch from Bremer Bay running along the Fitzgerald National Park. “DBCA is seeking details of our best fishing locations to supposedly allow their protection, but in other parks these are always the very first areas to be permanently locked away,” he said. “The feedback from southern retailers is that they are already struggling to source enough fresh local fish to meet local demand and if large areas of ocean are put into sanctuary zones then seafood availability will go down, prices will go up and outlets like the Boatshed Markets will struggle to continue.” A DBCA-established community reference committee made up of 12 sector and local representatives is set to convene for the third time on Wednesday to discuss the management arrangements of the park, including zoning. A DBCA spokeswoman said consultation had included community meetings, information sessions and newsletter updates. “This includes consultation on specific park proposals, boundaries and management arrangements such as zoning,” she said. “Marine parks allow for and consider multiple values, including recreational and commercial fishing. “A Community Engagement Strategy was developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including the commercial fishing industry. WAFIC is represented through this engagement process and has met with the Minister for Environment.” The draft management plan will be released by 2023 for further consultation.