CALL FOR ACTION: The dive industry says it has been impacted by the government amnesty on fishing bans on shoreline reefs.
CALL FOR ACTION: The dive industry says it has been impacted by the government amnesty on fishing bans on shoreline reefs.

Hurt diving industry wants reef fishing amnesty lifted

DIVE operators on the Coffs Coast have joined a chorus of marine conservationists calling on State Premier Mike Baird to honour a commitment and lift an amnesty on fishing in shore-based sanctuary zones.

The State Government introduced a 12-month amnesty in March last year while research was conducted into the impacts of recreational fishing on inshore reefs.

Now 15 months on, Dive Industry Association president Richard Nicholls questioned whether a commitment given by Mr Baird to improve marine park protections was a hollow promise.

"Mr Baird made the commitment shortly after becoming Premier and this was shared by new Environment Minister Rob Stokes," Mr Nicholls said.

"No research results have been produced and the dive industry now fears long-term reputation damage."

Fishing sanctuary zones apply to 7% of state waters and remain in place over key dive sites around the Solitary Islands.

Since the lifting of fishing restrictions on coastline habitats however, the $300 million dive industry said it is seeing a drop-off in interstate visitors due to uncertainty that key dive spots are open to fishing.