Angler fury over “secret” meetings to close fishing hotspots

As Fisho recently reported, a review of fishing restrictions at two sites on the Northern NSW coast took place last month. Fish Rock and Green Island at South West Rocks – both listed as grey nurse shark aggregation sites – were featured in two proposals outlined in a NSW Industry & Investment document circulated last month. One proposal prohibits all forms of fishing apart from trolling and spinning, the other proposes a blanket ban on any fishing at the sites. Read the story here.

Fisho has since learnt that a “closed” meeting on the closures review was initially held at South West Rocks in early October. Members of the public were not invited to attend this meeting. Following an outcry from the Hat Head Fishing Club, a second meeting was held at the Hat Head Bowling Club on October 14. This meeting was attended by about 130 concerned fishos from around NSW as well as an officer of the NSW I&I Threatened Species Unit.

At the meeting it was announced that review submissions would be accepted by NSW I&I as long as they were lodged by October 22 – thus giving only two weeks for any submissions to be prepared.

Following the meeting, it has been reported that NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner wrote to the Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, for an extension on the closing date for submissions. This resulted in the closing date being extended a week to October 29. Unconfirmed reports indicate that this information was not made public by the Minister’s office until October 26.

Fisho contacted former South West Rocks charter operator Lawrie McEnally, who has been heavily involved with a working group formed to fight the closures – if instigated – at Fish Rock and Green Island.

McEnally has questioned why the public was kept out of the proposal process:

“Industry and Investment tried to bring this issue in by stealth, holding a meeting and inviting only tackle shops, charter boats and the fishing club but no open meeting for fishos,” he said.

McEnally told Fisho that local anglers and businesses in the South West Rocks/Hat Head region had rallied to raise funds to mount a legal challenge to the closures. At a meeting on October 25, the group raised $50,000 for the cause, via donations from the Australian Fishing Trade Association, the Boating Industry Association, Bombardier Recreational Products and local businesses and concerned members of public.

McEnally has stated the opposition group has the support of shadow primary industries minister Duncan Gay, who has committed to reversing these closures if the Coalition wins the NSW state election next March. Fisho has contacted Duncan Gay’s office for confirmation of his position on the issue.

Fisho contacted NSW I&I for information on, if or when, the closures will come into effect.
A spokesperson told us: “Industry & Investment NSW is still in the process of developing options to provide increased protection for grey nurse sharks at Fish Rock and Green Island at South West Rocks.

“Public consultation has concluded and I&I NSW is currently assessing a number of public submissions on the issue.”


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