Pittwater residents close to ending commercial netting

Image: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

PITTWATER’S residents have engaged in a five year long campaign to rid the Pittwater system of commercial fishing nets. Since netting was banned in Sydney Harbour, Lake Macquarie and several other NSW waterways many commercial vessels have moved to the Hawkesbury region. While places like Sydney Harbour and Lake Macquarie are experiencing the best fishing in decades, the Hawkesbury has gone the opposite way and what was a once great system (arguably the best jewfish waterway in Australia), is now a shadow of its former self.

The Pittwater campaign has been championed by local MP Rob Stokes and supported by Pittwater Council, federal and local politicians and an overwhelming number of Pittwater’s community, social and business groups. A petition with over 10,000 signatures has been lodged in the NSW Parliament, the matter has progressed and the achievement of the goal is clearly in sight.

After an independent review, the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) has recommended removing user conflicts within the Pittwater estuary between the community and commercial fishing nets to improve marine conservation and maximise community benefits.

The MEMA report has found that these usage conflicts pose unacceptable threats to the long-term sustainability of Pittwater’s environmental, economic and social value. Recently, media releases from Ministers Niall Blair and Mark Speakman and Pittwater MP Rob Stokes have launched a public consultation process with submissions due by Sunday 24th April.

These media releases, the MEMA Report, other information and links for people to have their say can be found here.

In addition to supporting an endless number of recreational and social activities, the Pittwater system also supports many marine-based businesses vital to our community’s economy as well as tourism, retail, food outlets, fishing tackle, boat charters and other related providers.

Commercial fishing nets take their environmental toll in the Pittwater, damaging endangered seagrasses, spreading noxious weeds and killing by-catch. The Pittwater is an important fish nursery for the whole region and commercial nets decimate fish stocks. Commercial fishing nets are also a major navigational hazard for passenger ferries, yachts and recreational boats, particularly at night.

Pittwater is initiative six of the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion discussion paper and if you’d like to make a submission regarding either initiative, or a joint submission about the overall topic you can do so here.

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