Home' Afloat : October 2013 Contents 52 AFLOAT.com.au October 2013
with David Lockwood
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Anglers are a giving lot, only too happy to go out of our way
to garner information in the field and inform fellow anglers,
boffins and fisheries managers about what we caught,
where, how and when. But the question arises: are we shooting
ourselves in the foot?
Next thing you know, the data collecting leads to increased and
unfavourable angling restrictions, while commercial fishers continue
unabated, leading to what appears a case of resource reallocation.
The NSW Game Fishing Tagging program introduced in 1973 is
angling's greatest scientific accomplishment. More than 400,000 fish
have been tagged with in excess of 7,000 recaptures. The popular
species are: black, striped and blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, kingfish,
sailfish, mahi mahi or dolphin fish, mackerel tuna, striped tuna,
albacore and bonito, plus sharks.
Data has been used to learn about fish distributions, migrations,
growth rates and sur vival rates. Papers such as the Dispersal of
Adult Black Marlin (Istiompax indica) from a Great Barrier Reef Spawning
Aggregation have flowed on from our work.
But it's been put to me more than once that the knowledge
learnt from tagging also empowers the commercial sector, allowing
them to target species like striped marlin with greater accuracy
than might other wise be the case.
And from previous angling surveys and input, fisheries managers
have put forth some pretty ludicrous suggestions, such as we covered
last month in the newly released Discussion Paper titled the Review
of NSW recreational saltwater and freshwater fishing rules.
Anglers had a lot of input in this paper, but if Department
of Primary Industries (DPI) plans are realised we will find more
than 20 of our favourite species have their bag limits slashed in
half, there will be a default limit of just 10 fish for those species
without prescribed bag limits, and each angler will be bound by a
combined daily catch limit of 20 or possibly 30 fish. At the same
time, commercial fishing will continue with many of these same
fish at current or, it has been mooted, even increased rates.
Now recreational fishers are once again being encouraged to
donate their catches of fish to "help scientists gain more information
for monitoring fish stocks so they can be managed efficiently and
effectively," states DPI.
DPI Executive Director for Fisheries NSW, Dr Geoff Allan,
describes the new NSW Research Angler Program as a project
"established using funds from the NSW Recreational Fishing
Trust, which relies on the enthusiasm of the State's one million
recreational fishers to collect vital biological information on the
fish they catch."
The two-year program begins with one of the State's most iconic
recreational species: mulloway (aka jewfish). Mulloway have been
selected as a priority species for study due to ongoing concerns
for the health of the stock, which are currently assessed as being
overfished. New management arrangements are currently being
considered to assist with rebuilding those NSW stocks.
"While mulloway can live for more than 30 years, the majority
of the individuals in the NSW stock are less than five years old, so
clearly the stock needs close attention," Dr Allan said.
Yet, at the same time, pro beach haulers continue to net
and put to market alarming numbers of the big breeding female
mulloway from the NSW North Coast while DPI turns a blind eye.
And if you've ever anchored downstream from a prawn trawler's
sorting nets on the Hawkesbury you will have seen the river of
baby jewfish floating past.
Dr Allan asked fishers to donate the frames (skeletons including
heads) from fish they catch and choose to keep, to participating
tackle stores along the NSW coast from Tweed Heads to Bermagui.
"Once we collect the donated frames, they will be processed in
the DPI's laboratories and our researchers will record length, sex
and reproductive state, and by analysing the earbones (otoliths),
will be able to determine the age of the fish," Dr Allan said. From
there, well, who knows?
But it's hard not to be cynical, especially when Minister
for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, announces the
appointment of an inaugural Chair to lead the newly formed
Ministerial Fisheries Advisory Council (MFAC) comes from a
Ms Hodgkinson said she is recommending the appointment
of Richard Stevens to lead the MFAC, which replaced the Seafood
Industry Advisory Council and will "provide me with high-level
policy advice on issues which impact across fisheries sectors,
including recreational and indigenous fisheries and aquaculture,
as well as commercial fisheries."
"It will also advise on other issues including resource sharing,
co-management, cost recovery and ecosystem-based fisheries
management, Ms Hodgkinson says, adding "the expert council
will be broadly representative of all key fishing stakeholders
including the commercial, recreational, indigenous, conservation
and aquaculture sectors."
Mr Stevens' experience in the fisheries management sector
includes Deputy Chair and Commissioner for the Australian
Fisheries Management Authority, the peak body in charge of
commercial fishing in the country.
Further details including participating tackle stores are available
at NSW Research Angler Program at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Angling surveys to our detriment?
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