Local anglers have taken to the streets to collect signatures against the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) proposals that would see mesh netting in Merimbula’s Top Lake.
Members of the Merimbula Big Game Lakes Angling Club (MBGLAC) are concerned that the proposals will see nets dragged across the sea grasses in the lake, disturbance of the valuable breeding ground and ultimately a reduction in the numbers of tourists who come to Merimbula specifically for the excellent recreational fishing.
As the News Weekly went to press local oyster growers were still studying the proposals but had already expressed concern about the proposed netting techniques. Oyster farmer Chris Boyton urged everyone interested to attend the DPI stakeholder meetings at Bermagui or Eden next week and to ask questions of the DPI prior to the meetings.
Mr Boyton said: “We need to see the scientific evidence relating to this proposal.”
Merimbula’s Top Lake and Bournda Lagoon are targeted in the DPI proposals and would see the current mesh netting restriction removed and permitted between March and November. At Wallagoot Lake mesh netting is currently prohibited between November and April and the DPI proposes to remove the restriction to allow year round mesh netting.
"If there’s nothing left to fish for why would the tourists come here. This would affect the whole town."
President of MBGLAC, John Whittaker said that the club would be talking to local businesses. “Mesh netting will target the table sized species and that’s what the tourists come for. If there’s nothing left to fish for why would the tourists come here. This would affect the whole town. You’ve only got to look at the number of boat trailers that have been here over the school holidays and consider what these people are putting into the local economy in terms of accommodation, petrol, diesel, food and fishing tackle and bait.”
In a document explaining the need for reform, the DPI said that the economic viability of the commercial fishing industry wasn't in good shape and that many coastal towns needed commercial fishing to be sustainable.
Conversely though an independent survey commissioned by the DPI found last year that each year recreational fishing was worth $360 million to the south coast and about $3.5 billion to the NSW economy.
Documents relating to the commercial fishing reform program can be found at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au. The closing date for submissions is May 19.
Proposal for Top Lake
Upstream from the road bridge, remove the meshing net from the prohibited methods. Authorise the use of a meshing net by the method known as splashing between sunset and sunrise from March to November. Maintain meshing net restriction on weekends, public holidays and NSW school holidays.
There is a similar proposal for Sandy Beach Creek and Bournda Lagoon, North Tura.
DPI port meetings
Bermagui: Wednesday, May 7, 2-6pm, Bermagui Community Hall
Eden: Thursday, May 8, 8am-12 noon, Eden RSL Hall