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Fishing groups slam radical catch limit plan


Grant Newton

Bag limits: the changes.

Bag limits: the changes.

A review of recreational fishing rules in NSW, which includes recommendations to halve the allowable daily catch for many popular south coast species, has been widely condemned by angling groups as lazy, poorly timed and lacking in science and logic.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has received more than 3500 submissions on the discussion paper which recommends a 50 per cent reduction in fishing bag limits for species such as snapper, flathead, tailor, trevally, luderick and bream.

The review also recommends a combined total daily catch limit of 20 or 30 saltwater finfish.

At a glance: review of bag limits.

At a glance: review of bag limits.

President of the Canberra Fisherman's Club, Glen Malam, said the recommendations had no conservation basis and the review was poorly timed ahead of a major survey of recreational anglers due next year.

"Our main view is that there is absolutely no science behind it – there is really no logic behind it."

"For some of these species there really isn't any logical reason [to reduce bag limits].

Mr Malam said the recommendations might achieve the [department's] aim of reducing the complexity of fishing rules for different species, but that was no basis for the intelligent management of a fishery.

He said if the department was serious about conservation and managing fish stocks for the future it should examine bag limits on larger fish.

"You can wipe out a couple of hundred small fish that are undersize and it doesn't have much impact.

"Take out two or three really big fish and that could mean several thousand fish won't be there next year."

President of the Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) NSW branch, Stan Konstantaras, described the review process as "lazy" and lacking any solid science.

“The first question you have to ask is 'are recreation fishing stocks in danger?' That question hasn't been answered ever," he said.

Mr Konstantaras said the review ignored community concerns about commercial fishing activities such as the netting of estuaries.

"Instead it has just proposed a broad-brush 50 per cent reduction in recreational fishing bag limits."

"They have taken the easy option. It's no different to the debate we had around marine parks. And the sanctuary zones – there was no science there either."

Mr Konstantaras said he wouldn't be against changes if there was evidence to suggest they were necessary.

“If our bream are in danger or under threat from recreational fishing activity then tell us why and tell us what we need to do," he said.

“We are sustainable anglers and if we need to change our activities and curtail what we take then so be it.

“But as far as we know our fish stocks are healthy and there is not any recreational fishing species under threat."

The review recommends even tougher bag limits for some deep-water species.

A reduction of 60 per cent (five to two) in the daily catch limit is proposed for blue-eye trevalla, banded rockcod, hapuka and gemfish.

Mr Malam said anglers spent hundreds of dollars travelling well out to sea to chase these species.

"To spend an hour travelling out to sea to catch two fish in 10 minutes then turn around and come back – it's just silly really."

The office of NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson declined a request to speak to the minister about criticisms of the review. Instead, Fairfax Media was referred to the department's manager of recreational fisheries, Bryan van der Walt.

"We've developed the discussion paper in light of a lot of issues," Mr van der Walt said.

"The recreational sector in NSW is a large sector – there are one million fishers in NSW – so we do these reviews periodically – the last one was in 2007. Between reviews we get a lot of representations from the community about various things.

"One of those things is the potential reduction in bag limits which provide for greater conservation of our fish stocks but also a fairer sharing of the catch between fishers."

He said the department used all of the scientific information available to it.

"We try and undertake assessments of around 100 different species every year. Our scientists undertake these assessments with the information that is available to us and we assess the status of those stocks. For most of the stocks we do have information, but for some species, there certainly are some information gaps."

Not all anglers disagree with the proposed blanket reductions.

Anthony Stokman, who operates Topcat fishing charters at Batemans Bay, said he liked the fact they were halving the limits.

"A lot of clients are catching and releasing [fish] these days."

"People are getting on to the idea of just taking what you need at the time and I encourage it. You are going to get people who want to catch their bag limits and fill their freezer, but that's not all that common these days."

To read the full review of NSW recreational saltwater and freshwater fishing rules, or to have your say, go to Submissions close on August 31.


  • Surely the 10/5/2 limits are plenty generous to feed a family, then you can come right back and do it all again the next day. It's not necessary to fill the entire freezer each time you go out.

    You can buy wonderful deep-sea fish on the south coast for mouth-watering $20-25 a kilo, a real privilege but I suspect it costs the big-boat recreational fishers five times as much.

    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 1:37PM
    • As a keen recreational fisho I have absolutely no problem with this as I rarely take more than 3 fish. I do agree that there does not seem to be much science in the reductions though as Flathead, Taylor and Bream are a dime a dozen on the south coast and agree a better way would be putting a maximum limit in place.

      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 2:14PM
      • As the partner of a recreational fisherman, I spent the first several years of our relationship encouraging him to bring fewer fish home - he used to think he was doing something good by catching his bag limit of fish and filling the freezer, and didn't seem to notice the volume of freezer burned old fish that would go in the bin when it was cleaned out. Now he just brings home one or two, and releases the rest. Plenty to eat + plenty left behind to make more fish.

        Date and time
        August 20, 2013, 4:00PM
        • Look, it is NOT recreational fishing that damages fish stocks, it is commercial fishing.
          And I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't being brought on by lobbying from commercial interests.

          selector 2
          Date and time
          August 20, 2013, 4:19PM
          • As a keen catch and release fisherman I think it's ridiculous just halving the limit with no regard to the stock numbers of that species, or the size of the fish. As Glen Malum said, one big breeding female less has much more impact on a fishery than 100 smaller fish. I'd much rather see maximum size limits such as on Murray Cod or Barramundi. It's not like it's a new idea.

            As for the Ministers comment "...fairer sharing of the catch between fishers" - I don't think anyone that complains about not catching as many fish as the next guy would be happy with the laws once they put a bit of time on the water and actually learnt how to catch fish.

            Date and time
            August 21, 2013, 7:29AM
            • I don't know much about fishing, rarely catch anything when I go down the coast. Maybe I am using the wrong bait or maybe the commercial net fishing is wiping out fish population.. I pay for my fishing licence ( my wife always tell me it's cheaper for me to just buy the fish from shops then to pay for petrol and licence since I generally go home empty handed) and I have no idea where I can or can't fish, I can't read maps so I have no idea where fish marines or reserves are. Even if I accidentally fish in a fish marine or reserves surely a simple fishing enthusiast like me ain't gonna wipe any fish species out.. Why are people concerned about people who catches a few fish here and there??? Why not concentrate on the commercial fishing that catches anything that get caught in their big nets.. Why are there no consequence for net fishing that kills fish that they don't even intend to catch?

              Date and time
              August 21, 2013, 8:22AM
              • As a licenced professional in both the state and AFMA managed fisheries I both have to support and strongly object to your arguments Michael.
                Firstly neither fishery is well managed.The state managed segment has ridiculous trip limits imposed on professional fishermen that forces them to dispose of fish at sea,these rules were put in place to appease the Commonwealth and had nothing to do with stock assessment.The AFMA managed quota system is even worse,where literally hundreds of tonnes of fish are discarded annually because of the ongoing failure to properly assess our fisheries.The fact that the government has loaded the AFMA Commission with people who are green exacerbates the problem.
                Simplistic arguments about "no consequence for net fishing..." are hardly helpful, most pros are from long term family businesses and are in some ways conservationists, do you honestly think we want to destroy our future.
                I personally don't support the restrictions on amateur fishermen except where amateurs have expanded their effort into areas like deepsea fishing for blueeye and hapuka, with the use of power reels, which I believe should be banned.
                And yes Michael you are correct,you are very unlikely to wipe out any fish species, even in those fisheries that have been intensively fished for hundreds of years, like the North Sea,South China Sea or Mediterranean Sea, for to my knowledge no marine fish has been fished to extinction.

                Pro Fisherman
                Date and time
                August 21, 2013, 9:54AM
              • Oh you have a licence?
                Well news for you, so do all amateurs!
                Pro fishing licences still handed down from father to son at no cost(except to the environment)?
                Why has the NSW govt been trying to buy back pro licences?

                Not convinced Or impressed.
                Date and time
                August 21, 2013, 11:04AM
            • Having fished my favourite patch for flatties for 15 years at Bateman's bay I have seen the actual improvement in catch numbers since the marine parks were introduced. Thankfully the commercial operations are now excluded from these areas where I used to see them come in at night and scoop the lot. I think us recreational fishos need to make some (sensible/realistic) sacrifices too?

              I agree with the above reader's comments and I think that the majority of us recreational fisherfolk now take on the attitude of take what you need not stuff the freezer. These modern attitudes are no doubt are thanks to the message delivered originally by the likes of Rex Hunt and Steve Starling and Bushy and now by Paul Worsteling on their respective fishing shows - good work to these guys for driving this issue.

              I myself can relate and have experienced 'K's" comment on freezer burned fish getting thrown out, what a waste! With this in mind and a combined bag limit of 20 fish a day, why would you need more?

              Lets face it, if you want more fish than 20 a day it is cheaper to buy them when you need them anyway considering the costs associated with tackle let alone throwing a boat into the equation.

              Date and time
              August 21, 2013, 9:24AM
              • Coogee,I would suggest that MPA's have bugger all to do with catchability of flathead at the Bay.There are no fences on a MPA, and fish come and go due to a huge range of ecological factors, and any perceived increase is probably due to that. There are many scientific papers on why MPA's don't work and despite the claims of various green organisations little long term empirical evidence to support them. If you want your tax dollars being squandered on a green myth instead of hospitals and schools that's your choice.

                Pro fisher
                Date and time
                August 21, 2013, 11:16AM

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