Fishing community outraged over netting proposals

LAKE FISHING: Concerned recreational fisherman Steve Starling fishes on Coila Lake regularly.
LAKE FISHING: Concerned recreational fisherman Steve Starling fishes on Coila Lake regularly.

THE Tuross Head recreational fishing community is up in arms over a commercial fishing review that proposes to take back what recreational fishers have fought for over the past decade. 

The concerns were raised after the announcement of a commercial fishing reform document that proposes to make it easier for fishing in intermittently closed and open lakes and lagoons (ICOLLs), such as Coila Lake. 

DPI Minister Katrina Hodgkinson announced yesterday that the commercial fishery review will take more time. Click here to read more.

The review outlines policies and guidelines aimed at maintaining and enhancing fish habitat for the benefit of native fish species, including threatened species, in marine, estuarine and freshwater environments.

It also proposes to eliminate the restrictions commercial fishers currently have on netting, the areas they fish in, including areas that are closed off, and the times they can fish, for example public and school holidays. 

The Tuross Head fishing community is concerned about how and when commercial fishers can fish. 

Recreational fisher and fishing writer Steve Starling is “quite surprised” at some of the changes proposed and said it would wind back a lot of the regulations recreational anglers had fought for over the past decade. 

“We have fought to get recreational fishing-only areas and limits on the netting in a lot of the areas we don’t believe are sustainable,” Mr Starling said. 

“I don’t have a specific objection to what they are proposing in Coila Lake but more to the more significent changes for Moruya River, Wallaga Lake and other estuaries along the coast.

“It is a rolling back on the restrictions on commercial fishing.”

Mr Starling said he understood the review would also change the shares in commercial fishing and that it was “hard for commercial fishermen to swallow”, but he does not agree with the wish list put forward to compensate those changes. 

“I would like to see people paid out if they are being retired from the industry but those arguments are different from the things they have asked for in this wish list of rollbacks of things that have been accepted by the community for many years,” Mr Starling said. 

“A lot of us here in Tuross and up and down the coast believe that ICOLLS like Coila really can’t sustain netting at all.

“Maybe some limited prawn netting but seriously the fish that are in here, are in here, and there is very little recruitment.

“We would like to see the nets out of these vulnerable estuaries.” 

According to Mr Starling, there is a strong perception in the Tuross community that Coila Lake is being overfished. 

“They have got a lot better at what they do with technology and I don’t think it can sustain unlimited fishing,” Mr Starling said. 

“There are no quotas, they can catch as many fish out of here as they want. We can’t.

“I go out there and I can catch a certain amount of fish over a certain size and under a certain size and all that kind of thing.

“I don’t think it is sustainable that a small group of people are pulling an immense amount of fish out of this resource that could be such a valuable thing to the economy from a tourism point of view.”

Mr Starling said it was “not all take” and recreational fishers wanted to give some back to the commercial industry as well. 

“We pay our licence fees and we all pay for the right to fish and we think that some of that money can go towards paying out some of the commercial fishermen that we would like to see out of these areas,” he said. 

Quotas called for Coila

TUROSS Head community groups and government representatives left a round table discussion on April 4 agreeing to disagree on the environmental sustainability of allowing the commercial fishing of Coila Lake without quotas.

At the meeting Tuross community groups met with NSW Treasurer and Bega MP Andrew Constance and a Department of Primary Industries representative to air their concerns about the management and sustainability of commercial fishing on Coila Lake.

Tuross Head resident Max Castle, who attended the meeting, said he appreciated and understood that there needed to be commercial fishing but disagreed to the extent that it was proposed.

“There has been no consideration to the value of recreational fishing,” Mr Castle said.

“What is proposed for commercial fishing is over the top.”

Mr Castle believes only the commercial side of fishing has been considered in the review and there has not been any consideration of recreational fishing and the numbers of tourists it brings to the South Coast.

“Recreational fishing is worth $340 million a year to the NSW South Coast,” Mr Castle said.

Mr Castle said that when the review was completed he wanted waterways “to be sustainable and shared”.

“I want to see the (review report) squashed or modified,” he said.

One of the greatest concerns for Mr Castle is the elimination of the netting restrictions and the ability for commercial fishers to fish more often in more places.

“Not to say that they will, but they could use a net the size of Coila Lake and clear it out,” he said.

Unless lakes and lagoons are kept sustainable for the future, Mr Castle believes fish stocks will be depleted.

“I want to see fish in the future for both commercial and recreational fishermen,” he said.


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