June 25 - July 15  2023: Issue 589


Swimmers campaign for an Aquatic Reserve at Bongin Bongin Bay, Mona Vale Beach: Motion to be tabled at June 2023 Council Meeting

Photo: Well done to Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay (Mona Vale Basin) for this wonderful morning to show the community support for establishing an aquatic reserve. May 13, 2023 - Picture courtesy Councillor Kristyn Glanville - Northern Beaches Council, Curl Curl Ward

A call to support an aquatic reserve at Mona Vale's Bongin Bongin Bay, where marine life would be protected from fishing, will go to council next week.

The bay, at Mona Vale Basin, hosts the Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay, a group of swimmers who traverse it each morning, all year round, and who have been inspired by the blue gropers, turtles and other marine creatures they see. 

However, they are concerned about the disappearance of sea life in the area, including from the local rocks, with fishers scraping shellfish off them.

Friends spokesman Greg Pride said the group is asking Northern Beaches Council to lobby the NSW Government to establish a “no take” zone at Bongin Bongin Bay. 

The establishment of the aquatic reserve would protect local marine biodiversity now and into the future, Mr Pride said. 

The area of the proposed aquatic reserve would be approximately 451,000 square metres (45 hectares) with a perimeter of 3.8km.

“We are a group of locals who are leading a campaign to have Mona Vale's Bongin Bongin Bay (Mona Vale Basin) declared as an aquatic reserve,” Mr Pride said. 

“Our group is made up of local swimmers, surfers, surf life savers and beach users. Our group has no political affiliation. We are just passionate locals who care about our environment.”  

The group is seeking Council help in having the Intertidal Protected Area at Mona Vale Headland reclassified as an Aquatic Reserve and that this reserve include Bongin Bongin Bay and its adjacent rock platforms.

The primary objective of aquatic reserves in NSW is to conserve the biodiversity of fish and marine vegetation. Where consistent with this objective, aquatic reserves may also aim to:

  • Protect fish habitat
  • Provide for species management
  • Protect threatened species, populations and ecological communities
  • Facilitate educational activities and scientific research

Bongin Bongin (Aboriginal for "many shells") Bay has seven types of marine habitat in close proximity, and being located midway between two other aquatic reserves, Barrenjoey Headland and Narrabeen Headland, it is, in effect, a wildlife corridor. 

Surfrider Foundation Australia Northern Beaches Branch unanimously resolved to support Bongin Bongin/Mona Vale declaration as an Aquatic Reserve at its May 2023 meeting.

Northern Beaches branch spokesman Brendan Donohoe said study after study indicated that such reserves could aid in the restoration of a healthy broader marine environment, preventing further degradation and assisting tourism as well as other economic activity through the visitation these areas induced. 

“Protected areas of high value marine estate are critical for not only the sea life that inhabits it now and into the future but also for those of us who love the coast,” Mr Donohoe told Pittwater Online News

“The last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report stated that the world needs to protect 30 per cent of our oceans to assist in the recovery from the barrage of climate change and human induced stressors.

“Currently only 8 per cent of our blue planet is protected.  So we may as well start in our own backyard.”

He thanked the Friends of Bongin Bongin for their work on the project and wished them success.

The motion is jointly sponsored by Pittwater Greens Councillor Miranda Korzy, Manly Independent Councillor Candy Bingham and Pittwater Your Northern Beaches Councillor Michael Gencher.

Ms Korzy said the protection of our marine estate is critical at a time when sea life is under siege from multiple attacks including pollution, habitat loss, warming and acidifying oceans as well as overfishing.

“We are seeing the consequences of treating the ocean like a bottomless pit that will absorb waste but keep on handing up food and other resources for humans, no matter what we do to it,” Ms Korzy told Pittwater Online News

“However, the IPCC has warned that we can’t keep going the way we have been.

“These no-take Aquatic Reserves provide a breather for our oceans to recover and for us to see what life off our coast would once have looked like.

“For anglers who are concerned, I’d say commercial fishing is the primary threat, but creating an area where fish can breed and survive to adulthood improves fish stocks in nearby areas.” 

Veteran scuba diver and film maker Valerie Taylor voiced her support for the no-take aquatic reserve" at a World Ocean Day celebration at Mona Vale surf club, earlier in June.

At the gathering of about 100 supporters, the Friends screened a movie filmed in 1972 with Ms Taylor and her husband Ron at Fish Rock on the North Coast, near Smokey Cape, showing them exploring a cave under the offshore rock in waters rich with corals and other sea life. The area is also subject to a proposal for a no-take aquatic reserve.

Ms Taylor said that when she began diving in 1958, she would see enormous numbers of marine creatures in only 3 metres of water. These days you saw none, she said.

She called for all our headlands and rocky reserves to be designated as marine national parks with no-take zones that are properly controlled. 

"It's people power that will do it," she told the audience.

Also speaking was Professor David Booth, from the School of Life Sciences at UTS, who said most people support no-take aquatic reserves. Australia has only about 10 per cent of its coast covered by marine sanctuaries but we need 30 per cent, he said. 

No-take aquatic reserves like Cabbage Tree Bay at Manly were the only places we saw increased biodiversity. Even a small area of 50 hectares could have a profound effect, allowing fish to grow bigger, which led to them having more babies. That meant fish stocks in nearby fishing spots in turn increased.

At the other end of Sydney, environmentalists are also keen to see their aquatic reserve at Boat Harbour, at the northern end of Cronulla Beach, become a no-take zone. SO Shire (Sustainable Organisations of the Sutherland Shire) speaker Sarah-Jo Lobwein told the World Ocean Day celebration the idea started with beach clean-ups where they saw lots of cotton buds and balloons on the sand.

A nearby water treatment plant also emptied into the bay, and despite migratory birds, turtles and even penguins frequenting the area, the numbers of dogs and cats was increasing, she said. 

"What I'm here for is to show that no little area is insignificant," Ms Lobwein said.

The Motion proposes that:

  1. Council seek the views of the NSW Department of Fisheries in relation to the community-led proposal that the Intertidal Protected Area at Mona Vale Headland be reclassified as a ‘no take’ Aquatic Reserve and this reserve is to include Bongin Bongin Bay and its adjacent rock platforms.
  2. The relevant Ministers being, the Hon Tara Moriarty MLC, Minister for Agriculture and the Hon Penny Sharpe MLC, Minister for the Environment also be notified.
  3. A report be brought back to Council outlining the outcome of this investigation, and what steps would be required to progress the proposal.

Background Information provided by the Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay

Sydney’s Northern Beaches has five existing aquatic reserves providing important protection for marine wildlife habitat. However, there has been no new aquatic reserves declared in NSW for over 20 years, despite the increasing pressures from urbanisation, and threats from climate change and offshore gas exploration under PEP-11 arrangements.

Since 1993, along with Shelly Beach Headland, Dee Why Headland and Bungan/Newport Headland, Mona Vale Headland has been classified as an Intertidal Protected Area (IPA). Of significance at Mona Vale is the non-inclusion of the rock platform surrounding the rock pool – an area that has been heavily impacted by urbanisation and recreational fishing activities.

The purpose of this proposal is to seek an extension of the Mona Vale Headland IPA to include Bongin Bongin Bay, and for the combined area, totalling 45 hectares, to be declared a ‘no take’ aquatic reserve.

This proposal is consistent with the values and goals of the Department of Primary Industries, the Australian Marine Scientist’s Association, and the Marine Estate Management Authority. It is also consistent with the goals of the Australian High Ambition Coalition, to which Australia committed in June 2021. As part of this commitment, Australia aims to lift to the international standard ‘30/30’ target i.e. to have 30% of marine reserves declared as ‘No take’ zones by 2030.

Marine sanctuaries provide a refuge for fish from being caught, allowing them to aggregate freely, grow large, and reproduce. Sanctuaries are an important tool not just to halt biodiversity loss and to create climate resilience, but to ensure food security. As fish and invertebrates grow larger they produce exponentially more eggs; the bigger the fish, the more babies they produce.

Establishing areas where larger fish can proliferate free from extractive pressures is of great value to areas adjacent that are open to fishing. Current Fisheries regulations already acknowledge the importance of these larger fish to the breeding potential of a population.

Research at Cabbage Tree Bay in Manly has shown that even small marine sanctuaries are playing a critical role in the restoration of the marine environment by enhancing biomass and biodiversity (Turnbull et al. 2017). The success of the Cabbage Tree Bay marine sanctuary has spawned the VIZ - Sydney Visibility Reports Facebook group, that now has over 10,000 members that actively share experiences and photos from the abundance and uniqueness of the marine reserve.

Finally, similar to Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve where an enthusiastic group of volunteers support the philosophy of the Reserve, the Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay are keen to collaborate with all relevant authorities in the ongoing education, protection, and assessment of the proposed Bongin Bongin Aquatic Reserve.

Mr Pride encouraged all those who would like to see a no-take reserve at Bongin Bongin Bay to sign their petition - which has already attracted over 5,000 signatures. 

To sign the petition calling for a No-take Aquatic Reserve at Bonging Bongin Bay visit the Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay website: https://www.bonginbonginbay.com/

If you support the campaign, please also email councillors before Tuesday’s vote to let them know how important a no-take Aquatic Reserve would be at Bongin Bongin Bay. See email addresses at: https://www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/council/your-elected-council

The following YouTube clip provides a taste of the World Ocean Day Friends fo Bongin Bongin Bay event:

Bongin Bongin Bay - Mona Vale Basin on Monday 7 Feb. 2022. Photo by Joe Mills