Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance has welcomed parliaments decision last night to implement three commercial gill net- free zones in Queensland namely Trinity Bay, Cairns, St. Helens to Cape Hillsborough, Mackay and The Fitzroy River Rockhampton and part of Keppel Bay.
Spokesperson for the group Lance Murray said a dedicated Group of community minded volunteers have been working on the St. Helens- Cape Hillsborough net free zone for well over sixteen years, this is our gift to the next generation of fishers. While the trawl and reef line fisheries had been significantly reformed, the inshore fish and crab fisheries had been consistently and inexplicably overlooked by successive governments and Fisheries Departments for decades.
“The result of this long overdue initiative will see fish stocks start to rebuild in these areas and recreational fishers in the future, able to enjoy a day’s fishing with the family with a very good chance of catching enough fish for a decent feed,”” Lance Murray said. This Net Free Zone is also a win for our iconic marine animals, dugongs, turtles and dolphins.
Mr. Murray said their volunteer group has had to contend with some very hostile media on their journey and unfortunately the truth by some sectors was the first casualty. It was reported to the recent parliamentary Agriculture and Environment committee public hearing into the introduction of the net free zones that by weight the three combined net free zones would have an 8% impact on east coast net fishery, 6% of the Queensland (total) including the Gulf of Carpentaria. 1 % of the Queensland Seafood production, and 0.1% of the Australian seafood, 33% of the Queensland (East Coast) barramundi catch and 13 % of the total Queensland catch. Most people are unaware that our premium seafood is exported he added. Australia is a net importer of seafood the bulk of which is clean/green product from New Zealand, and not from Asia as those opposed to the net free zones would have you believe.
Two weeks ago Mackay Recreational Fisher friends and associates conducted a weekend catch and release fishing exercise to ascertain base line data and the health or other wise of the proposed net free zone fish stocks, despite not perfect weather and fishing conditions some initial research have revealed some alarming statics. In brief 128 hours were invested, 99 fish were caught of which just 16 were legal take size, and that equates to one fish every 77 minutes, that’s not flash, but not unexpected according to MRFA president Lance Murray following a 609 % increase in commercial netting effort from 2012 to 2014 (these figures were derived from commercial netter log book returns to Fisheries Queensland.)
Before the benefits of the net free zone can be realized we desperately need rain to increase fish stock numbers, MRFA will be conducting ongoing stock assessment data research on an annual basis to measure any improvement in fish numbers. Our group is currently refining a Code of Conduct, the idea of which is to give the Mackay and district anglers ownership of the net free zone, and also to encourage recreational fishers not to raid the kiddies piggy bank, if everyone treats the net free zone as their private fishing paradise over a period of time fish stocks will replenish to a state of abundance, and then only then can we make claim to Mackay being the ‘fishing destination of Queensland’.
The district will then harness the economic benefits the net free zone has to offer. The tourism numbers are expected to increase which will lead to new jobs opportunities as well as important tourist dollars being spent locally.
End of media release; for further information please contact Lance Murray 0411 550 684 or John Bennett 0408 844610.