South Coast lakes caught in DPI net

THE FISH FILES

RESTRICTIONS banning netting in some of the South Coast’s popular recreational fishing lakes and estuaries are under consideration to be reformed. 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries recently released documentation to support its position in reforming laws that restrict commercial fishing in local waterways.

It includes authorising the use of mesh netting of Merimbula Lake, Bournda Lagoon, Wallagoot Lake and Wapengo Lake. 

On these lakes the proposals will allow mesh netting between sunset and sunrise from March to November, reinstalling the restrictions on weekends, public holidays and NSW school holidays.

It also includes recommendations to allow for all-year hauling net fishing in part of Wallaga Lake. 

It proposes the use of a prawn running net not exceeding 75m in length in Wallagoot Lake, Barragoot Lake and Bunga Lagoon.

Restrictions regarding the catching of Australian salmon and tailor could be removed, and yellowtail kingfish could become a conditional target species. 

“It’s just absolutely insane,” Merimbula Big Game and Lakes Anglers Club president John Whittaker said.  

“By introducing mesh netting into Merimbula Lake it will not only take all our fish species from the lake, they are also going to rape it. 

“By netting they will take out all the sea grass, which will cause all sorts of problems.

“Fish breed in the sea grass; everything lives around the sea grass.

“If you want to catch something, you go to the sea grass.

“Mesh netting will just rape it.

“It will disrupt the whole ecology of the lake.

“Most recreational anglers take one or two fish, and then release the rest.

“We teach our kids about catch and release, and about the environment.

“There has never been a proposal like this before.

“Merimbula Lake has not been netted for over a decade, which is why it is so good for fishing.” 

Mesh netting involves using different sizes in mesh and larger sizes in diameter mean smaller and younger fish can slip through the net.

“The gauge of the nets is such that undersize fish are allowed to swim free,” Canberra Fisherman’s Club president Glenn Malam told The Canberra Times.

“What that means is that just about everything in those creeks and rivers above the legal [take] size will be wiped out.”

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson stated that these reforms will “remove unnecessary fishing controls to improve efficiencies”.

“The commercial fishing sector will be fully involved in developing this policy,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

However Mr Whittaker said that there had been “no consultation whatsoever” with the recreational anglers.

He believed that it could be as quickly as one to three months before anglers start to notice the depletion in fishing in Merimbula Lake if the netting restrictions are removed. 

Ms Hodgkinson said that one of the reasons the fishing industry is less viable is due to the importation of cheap seafood, which makes up 85 per cent of the seafood sold in NSW.

However Mr Whittaker believed that even if the restrictions are released “they’ll still import” as imported fish will still be cheaper to purchase than Australian fish. 

Submissions to comment on these proposals close 8am May 19, and for more information visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/commercial/reform where there is a public submission form, or the link to an electronic submission form can be found on the Merimbula Big Game and Lakes Anglers Club Facebook page. 

HAVE YOUR SAY. Comment below or email ben.smyth@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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