Home' Afloat : AFLOAT April 2014 Contents 44 AFLOAT.com.au April 2014
with David Lockwood
FISHING REGS A MINEFIELD
Perhaps it’s a conscious decision to counter criticism over the
lack of policing. For it does seem like a new directive to get heavy
with illegal fishing activity. Whatever the motive, the news from
our fisheries department appears to be centred on compliance
above all else these days.
Take the Australia Day weekend. Operation Turbo Reef
targeting the illegal harvesting of invertebrates around Sydney’s
coastline netted more than 3,000 invertebrates, resulting in
almost $15,000 in penalty infringement notices, boasts Fisheries.
This overdue action is probably in response to concerned
anglers and environmentalists who have jointly drawn attention
to the gangs of unscrupulous bandits razing our intertidal reefs
of bucket-loads of shellfish, crustaceans and undersized fish.
Of course, many of the headlands in the Sydney metro region
are inter-tidal protected areas or Aquatic Reserves, meaning they
are closed to the collection of invertebrates such as urchins,
Turban snails, cockles, whelks and oysters. And you can only
look and not touch the bearded clams.
But while the notices are as clear as day in places like Long
Reef and Cabbage Tree Bay, in other parts of Sydney the fishing
restrictions are a basket case, a can of bloodworms, poorly
advertised, not even signposted, and in some case without
The Sydney Harbour and northern beaches recreational
fishing guide, a factsheet for downloading at www.dpinsw.gov.
au, mentions the long-standing fishing bans in Homebush Bay
(should be catch and release only), the Penguin Critical Habitat
bans from July 1-February 28 (so you can fish there now), and
the fishing bans in our Aquatic Reserves.
But did you know you are banned from setting crab traps off
Balmoral from October to March inclusive each year? For what
possible reason, we ask? And that octopus cannot be taken
from any ocean rock platforms in NSW or from rock platforms
in Sydney Harbour? How many are caught in trawlers (albeit a
More contentiously you aren’t allowed to fish for squid
in expansive North Harbour Aquatic Reserve, which takes
in the whole of inner North Head and Dobroyd Point, due to
that presumption that little penguins rely on squid for food.
Elsewhere, namely Phillip Island, penguin science has proven
any dependency on squid is false.
Then there is the big one. The entire shoreline of Sydney
Harbour and its tributaries – including the Parramatta and Lane
Cove Rivers and Middle Harbour – are Intertidal Protected Areas
where collecting seashore animals is protected? That includes
Look, we know powerheads aren’t kosher these days, that
you can’t use underarm spinners aka TNT to take fish, and the
size and bag limits are well promoted. Furthermore, we don’t
for a minute condone the removal of living shellfish from the
However, some of these fishing rules – like the ban on
squidding in North Harbour – are baseless bits of archaic
legislation in need of urgent review. Squid form one of the largest
biomass in the sea and, trawlers in the lower Hawkesbury and
Broken Bay catch them by the tonne right next to Lion Island
penguin rookery. Squidding bans are a joke.
FAIRYTALES AND FISHING FOES
You have to question the rationale behind the Independent
Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, and his question in NSW
Parliament last month calling for a Marine Park blanketing the
whole of Sydney Harbour, with Sanctuary Zones that would
inevitably lock-out anglers.
Positioning himself in the extreme-green camp with the likes
of the misguided National Parks Association of NSW, whom he
has ‘friended,’ Greenwich, 33, embraces inner-city life as that
espoused by his independent political predecessor Clover Moore.
But speak to the thousands of knockabout anglers who wet
a line on the harbour each year, the guides who eke out a living
taking tourists and locals, like celebrated chef Tetsuya Wakuda,
out fishing – if not this lifelong lover of Sydney Harbour – and
you will get a more erudite and true-to-life view of our beloved
Since the cessation of commercial fishing in 2006, the Harbour
has sprung to life. Moreover, since the deep-water outfalls came
online in 1991, after the sewerage barrier streaming across the
heads was replaced by oceanic currents, the marine life has
arrived on a first-class ticket.
From dolphins, seals, turtles and whales to pelagic fish such
as tuna, kingfish and even marlin, Sydney Harbour has regained
its mojo, its mantle and is a model of global standing for a well-
Diverse recreational user groups from fishers to divers, sailors
to power cruisers and marine scientists, along with commercial
activity such as ferries and warships, waterfront business and
home owners, co -exist on or by the harbour in a harmonious
and sustainable way.
So you have to ask on what basis, with what depth of knowledge
and experience, with what scientific backing these Marine Park
advocates base their ideological, fairytale campaigns to lock-up
places like Sydney Harbour?
In short, Greenwich’s question was a waste of parliamentary
time. NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson,
said “robust scientific and evidence-based management” was
her department’s mantra.
“Our approach to the management of Sydney Harbour is about
protecting the interests of all users, from the parent and child
who want to go out in the tinny for a good ol’ fish right through
to the commercial interests of a vibrant working harbour.”
Ms Hodgkinson announced that she has established a
Strategic Initiatives Network for Sydney Harbour, whose purpose
is to promote information sharing and collaboration among all
interest groups and departments.
Greenwich would do well to listen and learn. h
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