Call to ban fish netting in bay

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CONCERNS about over-fishing by commercial netters at the southern end of Port Phillip have prompted a petition to state parliament to have them banned.

Organiser Ken Tainton, of Third Ave Rosebud, said he had “easily 1100-1200 signatures” on several petitions from local anglers worried that stocks of snapper, whiting, flathead, salmon and flathead are in terminal decline.

A member of the Tootgarook Boat Ramp Club, and long-time former commodore of the Rosebud Motor Boat Squadron, Mr Tainton is meeting with Nepean MP Martin Dixon on Friday to discuss the anglers’ fears. The petitions will then be combined as one and presented the following Friday.

Mr Dixon will be asked to have it read to the legislative assembly before parliament winds down in the lead up to the November state election.

The petition points out that over-fishing by netters is causing depletion of fish stocks and asks that commercial fishing be ordered to cease immediately.

Mr Tainton said the fish “should be left to breed” rather than wiped out as was likely to happen if the netting continued unabated. He said over-fishing “has been going on for years” and that areas of concern ranged from Mt Martha to Sorrento and south of the South Channel.

A Department of Environment and Primary Industry spokeswoman said the number of fishing licences was capped at 42, with no new licences being issued although they can change hands – anecdotally for as much as $1 million.

“I have fished here for 53 years and the depletion of fish stocks it is just getting ridiculous,” Mr Tainton said. “They have taken everything.”

The spokeswoman said commercial fishers in the Bay were under the authority of a Western Port/Port Phillip Bay Fishery Access Licence. She said the commercial fishers were authorised to use longlines, mesh nets and haul seines to catch fish species such as pilchards, King George whiting and snapper.

The main species taken over the past decade in order of catch size are snapper, King George whiting, southern calamari, Australian salmon, southern garfish and rock flathead.

Recreational anglers may often catch more than the commercial sector on an annual basis. “For example, the recreational harvest of snapper is four times larger than the commercial catch,” she said.

“Fisheries Victoria monitors the Bay to ensure the sustainability of Victoria’s fisheries for future generations. The most recent Fisheries Victoria stock assessments of key species indicate that fish stocks are in good condition and are sustainably fished.”

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation report Status of Australian Fish Stocks Report 2012 lists western Victorian snapper and King George whiting stocks as sustainable.

Commercial fisheries for calamari, silver trevally, King George whiting and snapper in the bay have also been assessed as sustainable by the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program.

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