Managing our fisheries: Thinking outside the square

MOST anglers seem to have accepted that reducing the bag limit from 20 to 10 on a suite of popular rec species in NSW is not a bad thing, per se. Ten fish of one species is still a lot, and the “in possession” limit stays at 20 for folks who like to keep their freezers or caravan park eskies well stocked.

But on another level it’s a bit of a fizzer of an outcome from a long review of bag and size limits that had some fishos fearful and some wildly optimistic. The fearful predicted wholesale bag limit reductions and size limit increases. The optimistic hoped that Fisheries might be brave enough to link minimum size limits to breeding maturity for all popular species, introduce a lot more slot limits to protect big breeding fish and maybe make a few iconic species catch & release only.

So luderick and tailor go down to 10. Flathead, other than duskies (already 10), go down to 10. Trevally (combined, although in NSW that means mainly silvers with the odd errant GT or big-eye) go down to 10. Bream (or bream and tarwhine combined) go down to 10, although why they stay combined is a bit of a mystery as it’s not hard to tell a tarwhine from a yellowfin or black bream. And leaving the size limit for tarwhine at 20cm when bream are 25 is a bit confusing and looks a bit like a sop to Estuary General netters to this author.

But at least the changes are simple and shouldn’t frighten fishing voters too much. But I’ve a nagging doubt that they just may not have been based on good research or good science, and what that means for the future.

A recent short trip to Vancouver Island in British Columbia gave me a snapshot of a more sophisticated approach to rec fishing management. I could buy a licence online for a day or a couple of days. I could pay an extra $6 if I wanted to keep fish, otherwise it was just a C&R licence. The supporting fact sheet outlined closed seasons and gear restrictions for both species and areas, as well as size and bag limits, and told me that I had to provide catch records on the request of a Creel Surveyor.

As it happened the lodge I stayed at on Quadra Island routinely weighed and measured each person’s catch and provided its data to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The lodge also packed up my morning’s catch of a couple of sockeye and a pink salmon (with a choice of chilled or frozen) for my hosts to take home and enjoy.


Fish in BC, Canada and you have the choice of paying extra on your licence to keep a few fish for the table, otherwise it’s all catch & release. 

We do seem to stick with old ways here in Australia, and not just in the rec sector.

Setting up a marine reserve? Well, it must have some no rec fishing zones. Why’s that exactly? President Obama’s recently expanded Remote Pacific Islands Marine National Monument – the world’s largest marine park – doesn’t have any.

Got some sustainable stocks of small pelagic fish? Good oh, let’s get an industrial sized trawler in and harvest them … but we’ll oppose those unprincipled Japanese sustainably harvesting minke whales … that’s different. We’ve got “good” scientists and Fisheries Ministers, not like them.

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