Illegal Net Threatens Two Endangered Mary River Species

A 50m-long fishing net set illegally in the Mary River at Tiaro posed a serious threat to the river’s endangered fish and turtle species.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district manager Greg Bowness said the net was set across a freshwater section of the Mary River.

“The net had the potential to impact on the critical habitat of the river’s two endangered species, the Mary River cod and the Mary River turtle,” Mr Bowness said.

“The use of any net in fresh water is unlawful under fisheries regulations and the use or possession of a commercial net without authority is also prohibited.”

A report to the Fishwatch hotline alerted QBFP to the illegal net, which contained a significant number of dead and dying fish including catfish, Australian bass and eels.

Mr Bowness said Fisheries Queensland officers released those fish that were alive and removed the net with assistance from water police and a local recreational fisher.

“The fishing net was seized, however, the offender who unlawfully set it across the Mary River is yet to be found,” he said.

“Anyone with information that could assist our investigation into the matter should call the Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.”

One of Australia’s most endangered fish species, the Mary River cod is listed as a no-take species under the Fisheries Act 1994 to help preserve the remaining natural population.

Mr Bowness said the no-take classification requires fishers to return Mary River cod back to the water unharmed if caught.

“Possessing Mary River cod caught in its natural distribution is illegal in Queensland and can carry a maximum penalty in excess of $120,000,” he said.

“If caught unintentionally while targeting other species, care should be taken to ensure the fish is immediately returned unharmed to the water it came from.

“Regular patrols are conducted along the Mary River and its tributaries to ensure fishers are complying with the law.”

Mary River cod are strictly a no-take species in all waters with the exception of listed stocked impoundments upstream of the walls of Cressbrook, Hinze, Maroon, Moogerah, North Pine, Somerset and Wivenhoe dams and Lakes Dyer (Bill Gunn Dam) and Clarendon. Fishers are permitted to possess one Mary River cod from these listed stocked impoundments provided it is a minimum of 50cm in length. A closed season applies to Mary River cod from September 1 to November 30 each year in all non-tidal waters including stocked impoundments.

For more information on Queensland’s fishing rules, visit www.fisheries.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23. You can follow Fisheries Queensland on Facebook and Twitter (@FisheriesQld).

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One comment

  1. Avatar

    Mr Bowness said “possession of a commercial net without authority is also prohibited.”

    I don’t believe that you are correct Mr Bowness

    Fisheries Regulation Chapter 4 Division 1 ( Regulated Fishing Apparatus Declarations)

    Section 178 (1) (b) of provides:

    “A person must not buy, sell, possess or use commercial fishing apparatus unless –

    (b) the person holds an authority; OR

    (b) UNDER THIS REGULATION OR A MANAGEMENT PLAN, THE PERSON IS AUTHORISED TO BUY, SELL, POSSESS OR USE THE APPARATUS”

    “A person” is not restricted to a commercial fisherman who holds an authority.

    So, is there a provision of this regulation that authorises a person who does not hold an authority to possess commercial fishing apparatus (in this case a net)?

    Sure is.

    Fisheries Regs Part 13 ( General Exceptions) :

    Section 126 (2):

    “A person MAY POSSESS fishing apparatus (other than an otter trawl net) in the waters if the apparatus is stored inboard a boat”.

    “A person” is any person and is not restricted to commercial fishermen or regulated persons.

    “the waters” are “regulated waters” in this particular Part (General Exceptions).

    So any person can possess fishing apparatus in regulated waters under certain conditions.

    With that “possession” door open via Section 126(2) and applied via Section 178 (1) (b), general possession of commercial fishing apparatus (a net) is not an offence.

    Any person can buy, sell or possess commercial fishing apparatus.

    However, there must still be an authority in existence if the person wants to use it.

    There’s a big difference between what the law actually provides and what Fisheries would like the public to believe. That makes for easier enforcement.

    The Fisheries Act and Regulations combination is a flawed piece of legislation.

    That’s my view and I’m happy to debate it.

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