Hooked: The State Government has been swayed by images like this, taken by divers off Fish Rock this year.
Hooked: The State Government has been swayed by images like this, taken by divers off Fish Rock this year.

Coffs fishermen protest bans

MOVES to improve grey nurse shark protection around Fish Rock near South West Rocks could well have wider ramifications further up the coast.

That’s the concern of some Coffs Coast fishermen who attended a rally staged by the Community Action for Fish Rock group.

The recreational fishers oppose NSW Fisheries’ plans to implement ‘a fishing closure’ in the area, citing that they do not hook grey nurse sharks.

Group spokesman Chris Wallis said 50 boats took part in the protest, which aimed to prove fishermen did not hook the protected sharks.

“Thirty rock and beach anglers also affected by the proposed closure, gathered at the Smoky Cape lighthouse to protest against the lockout,” Mr Wallis said.

“The proposed fishing lockout has nothing to do with grey nurse sharks but simply a move to secure Green preferences at the next State election,” he said.

NSW Fisheries had put forward two options, both restricting further fishing in the area, based on studies that grey nurse sharks trail lures at Fish Rock.

Photos of sharks snared by gang hooks have added weight to the concerns.

Fish Rock and nearby Green Island were declared as critical habitat for the sharks in November 2002, resulting in fishing and diving regulations.

State Government Minister Steve Whan said despite those restrictions, grey nurse sharks were hooked by fishers.

“The NSW Government is concerned about the conservation of grey nurse sharks and is committed to stopping the extinction of this species,” Mr Whan said.

Fish Rock recorded the second highest number of grey nurse sharks on the east coast in a census of the species earlier this year.

John Jeayes of the North Coast Environment Council said real protection was well overdue.

“It saddens me to see some sharks with hooks embedded in their mouths and sometimes protruding from their gills,” Mr Jeayes said.

“Recreational anglers claim they do not target the sharks but if you put a fillet or live bait in front of them they will take it.

“The injuries they suffer can lead to a cruel, lingering death.”



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