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.
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 www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/info/review. Submissions close on August 31.