Port Stephens Huon Aquaculture fish pen ban extended to March

A FISHING ban around the fishing lease that lost 20,000 kingfish in Port Stephens has been extended into February. 

NSW Department of Primary Industries announced on Wednesday the temporary closure of the waters in Huon Aquaculture’s Providence Bay research lease would stand until February 28. 

Huon Aquaculture has recovered 5000 fish so far. 

Deputy director general fisheries Dr Geoff Allan said recovery efforts were still underway. 

“The closure was initially put in place due to the volume of boating traffic leading up to the long weekend, which created hazardous conditions within the research lease and hampered repair and fish recapture efforts,” Dr Allan said. 

“Despite advice, some fishers have been navigating too close to the mooring system and sea pen infrastructure, especially with divers in the water.”

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Findings on what caused the pens to break up will be released this week, the department said.

Breach can lead to fines of up to $22,000 or six months in prison for a first offence. 

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington queried the use of resources to protect the company’s site as wild fish were at risk, labelling the response “last-minute” and “haphazard”. 

She said she would call for an “independent, arm’s-length review” through parliament, flagging concerns that the freed fish would feed on baitfish, eating into commercial fishers’ harvests. 

“There’s potentially an environmental disaster, there’s potentially huge economic impacts on other people, meanwhile Fisheries are sitting out there protecting a catch that may or may not still be there,” Ms Washington said. 

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