Calls to ban drag-netting to prevent juvenile fish kills
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.