The recent two day Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum, held at Ballina on the north NSW coast recently, was reportedly well attended and has been claimed as an outstanding success. An initiative of the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Conservation Action Unit, the forum recognised various NSW habitat projects undertaken by recreational anglers, researchers, universities, and departmental staff.
The aim of the forum was to increase the awareness of the importance of fish habitat to ensuring the future of wild fisheries.
The status of NSW’s native recreational fishery was reviewed by Dr Charles Gray, Chief Scientist NSW DPI. This involved providing historical data relating to landing estimates, commercial and recreational catch rate related data and fish length frequency distribution graphs for various species. For example, the common dusky flathead which is rated as fully fished and on the concern list, has a potential life span of 16 years but few exist beyond two years old. The catch take is said to be 85 per cent recreational and 15 per cent commercial, which was a matter for conjecture by some.
Of interest to freshwater fishers was the 60 per cent to 90 per cent destruction of fish through weirs, mostly from underflows.
NSW DPI recently published a brochure on conservation efforts by anglers and the anglers featured are:
• Kevin Clark who has brought life back into the Richmond River through a fishway instalment and weir removal.
• Ernie Hawkins who has been a driving force and part of a snag replacement project in the Murray River and in studying the impacts.
• Joel Price who with Hawkesbury Nepean Bass Anglers planted native trees along the Hawkesbury River at Wiseman’s Ferry.
• Helen Ferguson who tackled reducing the carp at Brewarrina to realise a change in bringing back our native freshwater fish in the river.
• David Steele who with Windybanks Fishing Club members cleaned up rubbish in the Hawkesbury and Cowan Creek waterways.
• Rodney Tonkin who with help from NSW CFA tackled eradicating crack willows and combating pigmy redfin in the upper Molong Creek catchment.
• Cassie Price, a WetlandCare Australia coordinator, is heavily involved with the education and restoration of wetlands in north eastern NSW.
• Charles Howe who initiated the removal of a weir for fish passage 6 kms upstream and allowed mangrove rehabilitation for fish spawning.
A copy of the brochure can be downloaded at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/276224/Recreational-fishers-make-fish-happen.pdf
Because of the success of the inaugural Fishers For Fish Habitat Forum it has been recommended that NSW DPI conduct an annual conservation forum in different locations around NSW.