Marine areas in Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns where large net fishing has been removed are proving to be a magnet for recreational fishers and for bigger fish, showing the Palaszczuk Government’s policy to remove the nets is working, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.
The Queensland Government’s just-released report – “Performance of Queensland’s Net-Free Zones” – is showing positive early results for the net-free zones, introduced in late 2015 with the support of AMCS and supporters.
Dr. Leonardo Guida, Senior Shark Campaigner at AMCS, said while it was still early days for the policy, the results so far showed the clear positive knock-on effects for the community of keeping the ocean environment healthy.
Earlier this year the Queensland Government released a proposal to change the way fisheries operate, but Dr Guida said it was disappointing that removing gillnets from high conservation value areas within the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Sandy Strait were not included.
Dr Guida said gillnets were a clear risk to endangered and protected wildlife and the less there were in the Queensland’s waters, the better.
Dr Guida said: “The results from Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns net-free zones are really promising. Recreational fishers know where to go to catch big fish – they look for healthy environments. The fact they are turning up in these places where nets have been removed shows the clear value in adding more zones that are net-free.
“Queensland has a great opportunity right now to vastly improve its unique marine environment. Removal of damaging gillnets in key areas will not only protect turtles, dolphins, and dugongs, but also help arrest the alarming decline in large shark species which are critical to the overall health of our oceans”
Gillnets can be more than a kilometre long and are hung in the water column – virtually invisible to most marine life.
“Gillnets are an indiscriminate method of fishing, ensnaring and drowning iconic species such as turtles, dolphins and dugongs,” said Dr Guida.
“It’s only been three years since the creation of the net-free zones and already we’re seeing how prioritising the environment has flow on effects for community well-being and local economies.”
AMCS supports Queensland’s Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and continues to push progress towards achieving its goals. AMCS encourages the Queensland Government to remove damaging gill-nets from areas critical to the survival of many threatened and endangered species.
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· Investigations by AMCS and WWF-Australia suggest the number of protected species caught in the Queensland East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery is under-reported by commercial fishers. Queensland abandoned its observer program in 2012. An estimated 422 dolphins were caught when only 5 were reported, 422 dugongs (estimated) against 19 reported, 14,700 turtles (estimated) against 1043 reported, and 26,000 sawfish (estimated) against 7 reported.
· In January 2019, the ‘Discussion Paper’ (as per the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027) was released by the Fisheries Minister, Mark Furner, to invite public consultation on the proposed reforms for the east coast fishery.
· The Great Sandy Strait Marine Park is currently being reviewed. Recreational fishing and conservation groups are both calling for the Great Sandy conservation zone to be a net-free area to boost fish stocks and stop the bycatch of threatened species such as turtles and dugongs
According to Roff et al. (2018) large shark species have declined by up to 92% in Queensland waters. See https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-018-0233-1