Net free zones boost recreational fishing

Queensland’s net free zones are providing positive recreational fishing experiences in Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton, a report released today has confirmed. Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne said recreational fishers overall reported increased satisfaction with their fishing experiences in the net free zones since their introduction in November 2015.

“In the Mackay net free zone we’ve seen a significant increase in recreational fisher satisfaction when compared to the previous year.

“In the Cairns and Rockhampton net free zones, recreational fishers are continuing to enjoy fishing in these areas, consistent with last year.” 

The report, Recreational fishers’ satisfaction and expectations of Queensland’s net free zones, also showed that people who fished recreationally more than two days per month showed the greatest increase in satisfaction, on average their satisfaction increased more than 25 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

Minister Byrne said these results were promising. 

“The net free fishing zones were introduced to increase recreational fishing opportunities in regional Queensland and support tourism and economic growth, so it’s great to see these early positive results,” Minister Byrne said. 

Minister Byrne also today released the Fisheries Queensland report Monitoring Queensland’s boat-based recreational fishing, providing details of the species, number and size of fish caught throughout the state, including in the net free zones. 

Minister Byrne said the boat ramp monitoring program, together with the recreational fisher surveys, would build a more complete picture of recreational fishing in Queensland and the effects of the net free zones. 

“Monitoring is necessary to ensure our fisheries are managed responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of all Queenslanders,” he said. 

“We know it takes a number of years to see the results of fisheries management changes and the introduction of the net free zones is no different. 

“The Queensland Government will continue to monitor fishing in the net free zones to capture any changes over time to recreational fisher satisfaction, as well as the species, number and size of fish caught,” Minister Byrne said. 

Nathan Johnston, President of the Queensland branch of the Australian National Sportfishing Association, welcomed the results.  

“These results demonstrate that the net free zones are having a positive influence on recreational fishers’ satisfaction,” Mr Johnston said. 

“While anecdotally our members have been reporting better catches, it is great to see robust science and monitoring of recreational fishing to reinforce any long term changes attributed to these net free zones and wider afield across 45 boat ramps in Queensland. 

“Personally, I have participated in the boat ramp surveys twice this year. 

“I strongly encourage anglers not to be shy and to brag about their catches when approached by Fisheries Queensland staff conducting boat ramp surveys, as this information is critical to informing sound management decisions,” he said. 

From November 2015 to October 2016, more than 8000 boat crews were interviewed at boat ramps throughout Queensland and more than 4500 fish were measured from 34 species. 

Pikey bream, barred javelin, sand whiting, common coral trout and yellowfin bream were the most commonly measured species throughout Queensland. 

A variety of species proved popular amongst recreational fishers at boat ramps providing access to the net free zones, with barred javelin the most commonly kept species in Cairns, pikey bream in Mackay and school mackerel in Rockhampton. 

The net free fishing zones were introduced in November 2015 and are located at Trinity Bay off Cairns, St Helens Beach to Cape Hillsborough north of Mackay, and the Capricorn Coast from Yeppoon down to Rockhampton (including the Fitzroy River).

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