The NSW government has moved to protect mulloway stocks with a range of new laws announced this week applying as of September 1.
Following a recent scientific review of the Mulloway Recovery Plan, the following actions to halt the decline of the species and help the stock recover will come ino force:
- The removal of the possession limit of 10 mulloway between 45 and 70 cm that currently applies to estuary general meshing net fishers. This will mean that a 70cm mulloway minimum size limit will apply to all fishers.
- A reduction in the recreational bag limit from two to one.
“I know this has been a tough call but it’s needed to ensure mulloway stocks grow,” Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said
“The reduction in the recreational bag limit from two to one still provides opportunities for fishers to catch these magnificent fish and if they wish, keep a fish for the table.
“It will also ensure that consumers can still access wild caught mulloway now and into the future.”
Reaction to the call has generally been positive from recreational anglers. The overall sticking point remains why allow any netting, given the bycatch issues?
Shannon Malone, from Fisherman’s Warehouse at Marks Point, knows a bit about mulloway fishing, having been a designated tagger with the ANSA mulloway program for the last couple of years, during which he supplied three diaries worth of mulloway tagging and fishing information, with each diary noting over 200 sessions each.
“And they were just the ones I recorded,” Shannon quipped.
The information he and others like him gathered was used to chart behavioural patterns and growth rates.
“I think this move by DPI is a step in the right direction,” he said.
“You only have to see from my diary activity, and times that by however many recreational fishos across NSW now target mulloway, to get an insight into the impact recreational fishing has on mulloway stocks.
“It’s not just the netters.
“Recreational impact is not insignificant. In days gone by, fewer people fished for jew, and catches of fish 20kg and above was commonplace. These day’s they’re usually school size fish.
“Part of the reason for that is that more people are fishing for jew than back in the old days.
“Social media is putting them on the fish quicker and more accurately.
“The netters area a problem because they round up a lot of small breeding fish and that hurts stocks too.
“Removal of the possession limit of the 45-70cm is critical because it’s those size fish that are coming into the breeding zone.
“Take fish out of that mid-range and it’s going to effect.
“When they took the netting out of Lake Macquarie, the fishery surged in terms of bait and species. You only have to look at the number of snapper back in the lake for a measure of the impact.
“Over time, let’s hope the size of mulloway increases too as stock recover as a result of these new laws.”
Shannon has no problems with taking bag limits, but he believes it’s worthwhile revisiting those limits from time to time.
“When three or four mates go out and they all take two jew home for instance – there is a lot of fish on a jew, at 90cm long.
“Do that week in week out and multiply the weeks and the number of anglers – it doesn’t add up for sustainability and really, how much fish can you store in your freezer? Reducing it from two to one jew over 70cm makes sense to me. Same with bag limits for other species. Do you really need to take 10 bream home?
“The question as always is are we just going to wait until stock are depleted and say we have a problem, or police it now so there are stocks for the future.
“Any fair dinkum fisho will be more than happy with this new regulation. Some people will disagree, but everyone’s got an opinion, and for me, opinions are like those things that pad our your jeans – everyone’s got one.”
DPI will continue to look at other measures, including investigating options where commercially-caught mulloway can be differentiated to reduce black market opportunities, further monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of these actions, as well as more research on fishing gear technologies to reduce bycatch of mulloway.
Meanwhile, this weekend is looking pretty fishable with generally clear skies and a bit of wind about.
Local estuaries are holding bream, flathead, tailor and some nice sized winter whiting.
Saturday is looking the better if you want to head outside, with reports of kings, snapper, bonito and long-fin perch coming back from places like The Farm and Texas reef.