Local fish are safe

PROFESSIONAL fishers and recreational anglers are presenting a united front on how fishing is conducted in the waters off the Coffs Coast.

The fisheries and environmental spokesperson for the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club, Geoff Parker, said all parties involved believed that a sustainable and balanced approach being taken by locals was working well and any moves to ban commercial and recreational fishing was wrong.

“The anti-fishing lobby is pushing for a ban on all fishing in these areas and we believe they are not looking for a balance,” Mr Parker said.

“Not every one can fish there so we need professional fishers to ensure everyone can enjoy fresh fish on their table.”

Mr Parker was responding to an article in Wednesday's Advocate in which comments were expressed on the way fishing was approached by commercial fishers in particular.

“Professional fishers are closely monitored on methods used to catch fish and what they catch, ensuring they have a minimal environmental impact on fish numbers and species,” he said.

“As far as prawn trawling goes, the professionals are only allowed to trawl in 34 per cent of the Solitary Islands Marine Park and it's exclusively carried out over soft, sandy bottom areas. So the impact on marine biodiversity – including coral – and the perceived damage caused is actually minimal – not extensive as the anti-prawning lobby groups would have us believe.”

Mr Parker agreed that in the past, there had been a large amount of by-catch but those issues had been addressed by the prawn industry.

“Today, trawling nets include a by-catch reduction device, which has drastically reduced the catch of unwanted fish.

“Prawns are trapped but unwanted fish get caught in the updraft as the net is trawled and they shoot out the ‘escape' hatch unharmed.

The club and recreational anglers and professional fishers will be presenting a united submission on a possible rezoning of the Solitary Islands Marine Park which would be incorporated inside a proposed Commonwealth marine reserve stretching from Brooms Head to Hat Head and 80km offshore.

The Federal Coalition told local fishers and anglers on Wednesday that if such a ‘blanket ban' approach was adopted, it would remove it.

“We have some of the best seafood available in Australia right on our doorstep, so naturally, it's a resource we are keen to protect,” Mr Parker said.

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