This week has seen a focus placed on the impact fishing is having to our waterways. At Coila Lake, 5 men and 2 women from Ulladulla, were allegedly found in joint possession of 280 litres of Eastern King Prawns. All 280 litres of prawns were seized along with a hand hauled prawn net and a prawn cooker. Investigations are continuing and the people may face prosecution later this year.
In other incidents at Coila Lake, 7 people were found to have exceeded the possession limit of prawns. Fisheries officers seized over 57 litres of prawns over the course of a number of patrols. The seized prawns were returned to the water.
A 59 year old Moruya man was caught allegedly using a 200m meshing net in a sanctuary zone within the Batemans Marine Park. NSW DPI Fisheries officers caught the man as he retrieved the illegal net, with a haul of Dusky Flathead, Mud Crabs, Whiting, Yellowfin Bream, Mullet and Luderick. This week we also heard of flathead frames devoid of their fillets, in excess of 80cm in length, being tossed into the water at the Tuross Boatramp by fishers, obviously unaware or indifferent to the fact that Tuross Lake is officially declared a Trophy Lake and that breeding flathead of this size should be morally released back into the wild. The greed displayed this summer by recreational prawners on Coila Lake, swapping traditional scoop nets for 6m long drag nets whilst commercial fishers run their long nets has a high social impact as well as an environmental one. The disregard for catch limits went hand in hand with the disregard the fishers had to the foreshore leaving behind huge volumes of rubbish. The fishing of a marine park and the taking of “trophy” fish is also incredibly selfish. But we have made our beds by promoting these natural resources far and wide. “Come and visit the Nature Coast and prawn and fish”… and they have come …. in their thousands. Yes, it is good for our business which is tourism, and yes, it employs, however many are now beginning to wonder at what cost. There are plans underway to introduce socially responsible fishing to the area and our waterways. John Suthern, president of the Tuross Head Fishing Club made this statement in regards to the recent reports of breeding fish being killed.
"As president of the Tuross Head Fishing Club I am very saddened by this. We as a club have done everything to help the sustainability of the lake. Last year all our rules were changed to length and photos for catch and release our members have been shown fast release and fish handling techniques flathead over 60cm are female and should be released. They taste like crap over that size anyway! Our Annual Flathead and Bream is catch and release as you say and compeditors will be disqualified if caught with any fish in their livewell. There are at least 2 other competitions in the lake that are kill and grill and we beleve that they should either Change or be named and shamed. Visitors should also be educated it's about time fisheries put up some educational singe at the ramps then there can be no excuse. " To start the ball rolling The Department of Primary Industries has just published “Go Fishing” that features Tuross Head. In the introduction of the brochure it explains that: "The NSW Government knows how important recreational fishing is and has developed a range of programs to enhance angler access and opportunities. This series of guides to popular fishing locations is a great example of the proactive by the NSW Government to promote recreational fishing."
As can be seen from the cover the lake is promoted as a HOT SPOT! and there on the front is a typical “trophy” photo. While the publication is terrific in informing the fisher of exactly where to catch the fish and how to catch the fish it can only go so far as to say "Tuross Lake is a Dusky flathead "trophy fishery" and anglers are encouraged to release all flathead over 70cm. Bag limits allow for 10 per day 36cm and over with only one over 70cm. Locals look at the boatramp and then at the forty or so boats on the lake with two or three fishers each, fishing day in and day out over summer and wonder if the catch and kill of one flathead, over 70cm per person, per day is sustainable. The bring balance however the Go Fishing brochure also responsibly provides Catch and Release information and guidance.
Fishing is a fantastic family recreation enjoyed by most who come to the south coast. It is estimated to contribute $300 mil to our local economy annually and we have a duty to ensure that our fish stocks are best “managed” through education and leading by example.