Shark “no bait” rules: common sense prevails

FISHO last week reported on changes to fishing regulations around grey nurse shark habitat. These new regulations – which allow fishing using artificial lures and flies in known GNS aggregation areas such as Fish and Black Rocks near South West Rocks and various islands off Coffs Harbour – have largely been welcomed by anglers.

However, a blanket ban on all bait fishing – even with weed and bread for species such as luderick and bream – caused significant concern in the angling community, with the NSW Government coming under attack for imposing unnecessary and seemingly pointless restrictions.

Following lengthy discussions with Fisheries officials, Fisho can now announce that common sense has prevailed and fishing with weed and bread baits in GNS aggregation areas is now allowed. This will please rock anglers targeting luderick, drummer and bream around Magic Point, near Maroubra in southern Sydney. After all, how many grey nurse sharks are vegetarians? How many could realistically be expected to eat a small amount of weed or white bread on a size 6 hook?

While the weed and bread bait issue has been resolved, Fisho now understands Fisheries will research other bait methods to ascertain any possible impacts on the sharks.

Without wanting to predetermine the results of this research, it would seem reasonable to assume that small, lightly weighted baits of prawn, crab, cunjevoi, pilchard and squid, as used for common species such as the aforementioned luderick, drummer and bream, as well as other rock-fishing targets such as groper, salmon, snapper, trevally and tailor, would not be appealing to a grey nurse shark. We would hope that research on these popular baits would be expedited so that anglers can continue their traditional activities.

While it is confirmed that large fish flesh baits fished near the bottom around the gutters and ledges preferred by GNS do have a by-catch of the endangered sharks and thus should rightly be banned, more research needs to be done on other bait-fishing methods in order to assess the possibility of any “interaction” between anglers and sharks.

Livebaiting on the surface layers for pelagic species such as mackerel, wahoo and kingfish, downrigging baits in the mid-water reaches, livebaiting under floats or balloons and “float lining” with unweighted or lightly weighted baits, plus various other bait types and methods, all need to be investigated and ruled in or out as soon as possible in order to prevent confusion and uncertainty about the fishery.

Fisho will keep you abreast of developments as and when they happen.

See our previous GNS reports HERE, HERE and HERE.

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