Solitary Islands Marine Reserve
(Commonwealth Waters) Management Plan

Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN O 642547300


6. Managing the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve

As required by the EPBC Act, this section of the Plan states how the Reserve is to be managed and how its natural features will be protected and conserved. It also indicates those activities to be prohibited or regulated in the Reserve, and the means of prohibiting or regulating them. It sets out strategic objectives, management goals and management strategies to ensure that the conservation values of this outstanding area receive an appropriate level of protection. To the maximum extent possible, these will be consistent with the management regime to be developed by the NSW MPA for the Park. Accordingly, the zones applied to the Commonwealth Reserve have similar provisions to the zones used in the adjoining State marine park.

Consistent with the ANZECC Best Practice Model in Performance Reporting in Natural Resource Management (ANZECC 1997), the management goals and strategies derive from the requirements of the EPBC Act, the strategic objectives for the Reserve and an analysis of the existing and potential pressures on the key values of the Reserve . The values and major uses of the Reserve are described in Section 4.

 

6.1 Management Zoning

The primary management tool used to protect habitats and species in the Park and the Reserve is zoning. As noted earlier the Plan divides the Reserve into three zones. Under the EPBC Act the zones will be managed in accordance with the Australian IUCN Reserve Management Principles which are prescribed by the EPBC Regulations . The zones also take into account the NSW MPA zoning guidelines for consistency and ease of implementation, compliance and enforcement.

For the purposes of global accounting of protected areas the IUCN has provided guidelines for naming protected areas according to core objectives and management practices (IUCN 1994). The IUCN categories range from category I - strict nature reserves managed for science or wilderness protection, through to category VI - managed resource protected areas managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems. Under the EPBC Act an IUCN category must be assigned to a reserve and any zones within it.

In order to achieve the strategic objectives of the Reserve, the Reserve will be managed primarily for general use to allow for the continuation of all ecologically sustainable activities currently undertaken within the Reserve, in conjunction with measures to maintain its biological diversity and other natural values. The Reserve is therefore assigned by the Plan to IUCN category VI - a managed resource protected area. The Plan divides the Reserve into three zones designed to protect representative habitats and known areas of relatively high biodiversity where identified use pressures will or are likely to have significant impacts on marine ecological processes and threatened species.

Most of the Reserve is a General Use Zone (IUCN category VI) with two special management zones in the northern section of the Reserve - a Sanctuary Zone (IUCN category Ia - strict nature reserve), and a Habitat Protection Zone (IUCN category IV - habitat/species management area). Figure 2 shows the location of the zones in the Reserve.

6.1.1 Sanctuary Zone

This management zone extends in a radius of 500 metres around the centre of Pimpernel Rock. The zone provides high level protection for a single sample of pinnacle reef habitat at Pimpernel Rock, its biologically diverse ecosystems, ecological processes and associated marine species. In particular, the Sanctuary Zone gives high level protection to significant habitat for grey nurse sharks; this is consistent with the recovery plan for this threatened species being prepared under the EPBC Act.

It is a 'no-take' zone, in which activities that may harm marine life or interfere with or damage habitat will be prohibited without a permit under the EPBC Act or Regulations. Fishing and collecting will not be allowed in this zone by any method, nor will petroleum and or mineral exploration and development activities.

Activities to continue in the Sanctuary Zone, in conjunction with appropriate management measures such as permits, include scientific research and environmental monitoring, whale and dolphin watching, boating and scuba diving.

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4 This is consistent with the NSW Marine Parks Act 1997, which states that no anchoring is permitted in Sanctuary Zones except in designated anchoring areas.

 

6.1.2 Habitat Protection Zone

The benthic coral, algal, soft substrate sediments, subtidal reefs and deep water habitats comprise a complex mosaic of connected communities that cannot be managed separately. The Habitat Protection Zone has been designed to protect a representative sample of whole reef complex, including soft substrate sediments and subtidal reef habitats, deep water biotic communities and predator-prey assemblages, mammals and seabirds.

The zone extends southwards from the northern boundary of the Park and Reserve to a latitude 29 44' 49" in line with the headland at One Tree Point. The zone protects the adjacent deep reefs to the south east of Sandon Shoals and encompasses the Sanctuary Zone around Pimpernel Rock.

The zone provides for ecologically sustainable recreational and commercial activities that are consistent with the strategic objectives of the Reserve. In particular, the activities should not have significant impacts on fish populations, benthic communities and other marine life and habitats. Activities such as demersal trawling, purse seineing, coral collecting, and petroleum and mineral exploration and development will not be allowed. Activities which may continue in the zone, in conjunction with appropriate management measures and monitoring of impacts, include commercial pelagic fishing, handlining, droplining, demersal setlining, fish and lobster trapping, spanner crab netting, recreational fishing, scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching and boating.

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6.1.3 General Use Zone

The General Use Zone comprises the remaining area of the Reserve and provides for the the continuation of all ecologically sustainable activities currently undertaken within the Reserve, in conjunction with appropriate management measures to maintain its biological diversity and other natural values. Management practices will be applied to ensure that sustainable commercial and recreational use of the zone contributes to regional and national development that is consistent with the strategic objectives of the Reserve. Proposals for new activities in the zone will be considered for approval by the Director on a case-by-case basis to ensure consistency with this Plan.

 

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6.2 Management of Major Pressures and Uses

In addition to zoning and the provisions of the Plan applying to each zone, the carrying on of activities in the Reserve may also be subject to provisions of the EPBC Act (for example in relation to listed species) and EPBC Regulations (for example Part 12 of the Regulations regulates a range of activities in Commonwealth reserves), including provisions relating to the issue of permits. Other legislation such as the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, Native Title Act 1993, Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Commonwealth) and Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW) may also be relevant to control activities in the Reserve. Other non-statutory management tools such as scientific research, public education, codes of practice and protocols may also be applied to inform and improve management and compliance.

This section deals with particular activities identified as a major source of pressure on the protection or conservation of biodiversity values in the Reserve. This section incorporates parts of Section 6.1 that are relevant to the management of these activities in each management zone. Sections 6.1 and 6.2 should be read together to obtain a complete description of management arrangements that apply in the Reserve for the life of this Plan.

The general arrangements applying to implementation of the Plan are as follows:

6.2.1 Commercial Fishing and Collecting

A small but significant commercial fishery operates in the Commonwealth Reserve. The main activities include line fishing, fish trapping and prawn trawling. Commonwealth managed fisheries potentially active in the Reserve include the Southern Squid Jig Fishery, the East Coast Tuna and Billfish Fishery, the Jack Mackerel Fishery and three purse seiners in the South East Non-Trawl Fishery. NSW Fisheries manage all other commercial fishing activities in the Reserve.

Under the EPBC Regulations, subject to this Plan, all commercial fishing activities conducted in the Reserve must be authorised by either a law of the Commonwealth, a State or self-governing Territory; or a permit issued by the Director. As explained above, permits may be required or determinations made under the EPBC Regulations in cases where the Director considers that further conditions are required in addition to the requirements of a fishing concession to ensure the activity is compatible with the strategic objectives of the Reserve or zones within the Reserve.

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6.2.2 Recreational Activities

The recreational values of the Reserve depend largely on the physical attributes of the area and on the abundance, diversity and beauty of the marine wildlife in waters with high visibility. Recreational users rely on private vessels or commercial charter boats to access the Reserve. Specific recreational activities include boating, yacht racing, whale and dolphin watching, scuba diving, breath-held spear fishing and other fishing. Management prescriptions relating to recreational activities organised by commercial charter are discussed in Section 6.2.3.

Yacht racing within the Reserve and the Park is currently managed by the Waterways Authority of NSW, which issues licences for racing events. Under an agreement with the Waterways Authority, the NSW MPA will be consulted prior to issue of licences for yacht racing. Where no grounds for objection exist, EA and the NSW MPA will recognise Waterways Authority licences for the purposes of the Marine Parks Regulation 1999 and EPBC Regulations. No additional permit would be required for approved events.

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6.2.3 Commercial Tours

A number of commercial operators run charter tours in the Reserve. The main activities are whale and dolphin watching, scuba diving and charter fishing. Whale and dolphin watching is an increasingly important activity in the Reserve. The Australian National Guidelines for Cetacean Observation (ANZECC 2000) and the EPBC Act and Regulations provide standards for all human activity around cetaceans.

Under the EPBC Regulations, all commercial activities conducted in the Reserve require a permit. There are 34 commercial tour operator permits currently active in the Park and the Reserve. Concern that an increase in charter operators and vessel capacities is not sustainable led the NSW MPA to issue a moratorium on new commercial charter operator permits. This moratorium was considered necessary during the current review and completion of management plans for the Park and the Reserve. Both new and existing permit holders will be reviewed according to the new permit system currently being devised. Decisions to issue commercial tour permits in the Reserve will be considered on a case by case basis and remain consistent with the NSW MPA policy on charter permits.

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6.2.4 Petroleum and Mineral Exploration and Development

Due to the sedimentary characteristics within the Reserve, the hydrocarbon potential is considered negligible and no exploration or development activities are expected in the Reserve. Potential petroleum source rocks may exist outside the Reserve; however, no exploration permits have been released over the area to date.

The EPBC Act prohibits operations for the recovery of minerals in a reserve other than with the approval of the Governor-General and in accordance with a management plan.

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6.2.5 Scientific Research and Monitoring

Scientific research and monitoring are both a use of the Reserve and a potential management tool. They provide greater knowledge and scientific understanding of marine ecosystems to understand their conservation and sustainable use. Scientific research and monitoring are fundamental to the performance assessment that is required to ensure that the identified management strategies and specific actions contribute effectively towards the achievement of the strategic objectives of the Reserve.

Under the EPBC Regulations, all research conducted in the Reserve requires a permit. In assessing research permit applications, consideration will be given to the nature and potential impacts of the proposal, the aim of the project, ethical issues, and how knowledge from the project might benefit management of the Reserve.

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6.2.6 Shipping Activities

Australia is a member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and party to IMO agreements addressing pollution from ships, including the Protocol of 1978, relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 2 November 1973 (MARPOL Protocol). These agreements are given effect in Australia by a package of Commonwealth 'Protection of the Sea' legislation, which includes the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution by Ships) Act 1983, and complementary State/Territory legislation. While ships may occasionally call on their 'right of innocent passage' to transit the Reserve, AMSA has arranged with the Australian Hydrographic Office to have the marine protected area marked on new edition charts and in the Australian Annual Notices to Mariners, together with a cautionary note that indicates the areas environmental sensitivity.

The National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil was implemented in 1973 to protect the marine environment from oil pollution and to minimise the effects of oil spills. This National Plan to combat oil pollution ensures a capacity to respond to spills in the Reserve.

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