Calls to ban drag-net­ting to pre­vent ju­ve­nile fish kills

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - CHAR­LIE MCKIL­LOP

DRAG-NET­TING for bait could be­come a thing of the past if lo­cal fish­ing ad­vo­cates have their way.

An­glers have re­cently been caught red-handed stock­ing eskies with un­der­sized fish caught in bait nets while other ju­ve­nile species have been left to rot at Wonga Beach and other pop­u­lar fish­ing spots.

Net­work for Sus­tain­able Fish­ing - an in­for­mal group of peo­ple com­mit­ted to the re­spon­si­ble man­age­ment of com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing in lo­cal wa­ter­ways - say the prac­tice of drag net­ting for bait should now be banned.

Co­or­di­na­tor Dave Cook said hefty fines for tak­ing ju­ve­nile fish did not seem to act as an ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent.

When a group of cul­prits was chal­lenged on the beach re­cently, they claimed to be chas­ing prawns de­spite a haul of cro­ker, jew­fish and grunter clearly smaller than the le­gal size lim­its.

Mr Cook said while it may have been ac­cept­able once to use bait nets to “put food on the ta­ble”, it was not sus­tain­able in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment with so many species al­ready over­fished and un­der threat.

“Old habits do die hard I sup­pose but there are too many ad­verse af­fects hit­ting fish stocks with­out the tak­ing of ju­ve­nile fish through in­dis­crim­i­nate means,” he said.

“Peo­ple need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own ac­tions. We have to smarten up and recog­nise if we want an in­shore fish­ery in the fu­ture, ban­ning beach seine or drag nets would cer­tainly be a good op­tion.

“The au­thor­i­ties have to wake up to the fact it may have been okay in days past but those days are gone.”

But Fish­eries Queens­land says a re­view of the East Coast in­shore fin fish fish­ery in 2009 con­cluded recre­ational net­ting us­ing cast and drag nets was sus­tain­able and pub­lic feed­back es­tab­lished there was com­mu­nity sup­port for the con­tin­ued use of drag nets.

“This was based on a range of in­for­ma­tion on the species taken and the as­sess­ment and mon­i­tor­ing car­ried out by Fish­eries Queens­land,” har­vest man­ager Mark Lightowler told the Gazette.

How­ever, peo­ple us­ing drag nets should use them in a re­spon­si­ble way and any non-tar­get or un­der­sized fish should be re­turned to the wa­ter im­me­di­ately, he said.

“At least cast­ing in­volves a bit of skill, is se­lec­tive and very hard to abuse the use of it,” Mr Cook said.

“Whereas, with a drag net, any Tom, Dick or Harry can go out and come back with bucket loads of small fish. It’s just wrong.”

Mr Cook pointed to a re­cent state­ment by Fish­eries Min­is­ter Tim Mulherin which in­di­cated a species was deemed “over­fished” when its stocks dropped to 35 to 40 per cent be­low its un­fished biomass.

“By the Min­is­ter’s own mea­sure, I doubt there would be a sin­gle fish species in our catch­ment not over­fished,” he said.

To re­port un­law­ful fish­ing, call the 24-hour Fish­watch hot­line on 1800 017 116.

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