The North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) today welcomed with some reservations the return of the protections for the critically endangered grey nurse shark at Fish Rock and Green Island near South West Rocks and at several other key aggregation sites. There will be a 200m bait fishing ban around these sites.
Mr John Jeayes of the NCEC said the previous ban on bait and live bait line fishing by the NSW Labor government was removed on April 30, 2011, by Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson while a three month review of the science and a public consultation period were carried out.
The new protections for the grey nurse shark include a ban on the use of bait by recreational fishers within grey nurse shark critical habitat at Fish Rock and Green Island, and Magic Point near Sydney. As well bait will be banned within 200m of the key aggregation sites at North Solitary Island, South Solitary Island and Mermaid Reef near Crowdy Head.
“It is absolutely outrageous that a critically endangered species has had to suffer continual hooking causing injury and even death, for over 16 months while the government worked out that sharks eat fish and that if you put a juicy slab or a live bait in front of the shark it will take it,” Mr Jeayes remarked. “Even now there will be an advisory compliance period of 12 months while fishers get used to the new regulations.”
“That science was already in the Government’s hands and nothing new has been added. The community consultation was also overwhelmingly in favour of increased protection, even 50% of the recreational fishermen who made submissions were for protection measures. The reasons for this delay are obviously political,” he said.
“NCEC would particularly like to thank Cate Faehrmann, the Greens MLC, for her fantastic effort on this and also Luke Foley the Labor environment spokesperson. Compliance and enforcement will now be the issue. Recreational fishermen will still be able to troll, spin, jig and use plastics within the 200 m zone and spear fishermen will still be able to spear pelagics or surface fish like Spanish Mackeral,” he said.
Mr Jeayes said that there have been several instances in the past where the no bait rule was disregarded by fishers and there were some spear fishermen who took any fish they liked, particularly at Fish Rock.
“Conservationists and divers, as well as the Fisheries Department we hope, will be monitoring activity within the zones and if we record instances of flouting the new restrictions we will call on the Government for 1500 m sanctuaries as were promoted by scientific studies in the Fish Rock and Green Island areas.”
“We know most of the fishers using the area will want to do the right thing but they will also need to help to preserve their sport by educating visitors and the occasional rogue fisher., he said.
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