In response to outraged protest from anglers following details of a massive jewie slaughter by commercial beach haulers (see story HERE), NSW Fisheries says it will limit commercial take of this overfished and highly valuable sportfishing resource.
A Fisheries spokesman told Fisho this week: "Mulloway stocks in NSW are currently classified as overfished and although the extent of overfishing is uncertain, actions to limit the risk of serious declines in the spawning biomass are being developed."
Stopping short of saying mulloway stocks are in any danger, the spokesman said "despite these concerns it should be emphasised that overfishing does not mean the species is endangered or that fishing needs to be stopped".
"If a species taken in a NSW commercial fishery is determined as overfished it's Fishery Management Strategy requires appropriate recovery action. Recreational fishers are also included in this process as they harvest the same resource."
I&I NSW, the "super" department which includes Fisheries, says it has initiated development of a stock recovery program for mulloway and established a resource planning group, involving researchers, fisheries managers and stakeholders from commercial, recreational and conservation sectors.
A mulloway resource planning group meeting held in June focused on options for reducing further declines in stocks, including ways to reduce fishing pressure on adults and juveniles. Key to a successful mulloway recovery program is believed to be enhanced protection for mature breeding individuals.
Some of the specific management actions being considered include:
• Appropriate changes to size limits for both commercial and recreational sectors.
• Reduction in the recreational fishing bag limits.
• By-catch limits and reduced targeted fishing for commercial estuary fishers.
• Commercial catch limitations for mulloway on ocean beaches.
• Improvements to the current by-catch reduction devices used in the estuary and ocean trawl fisheries.
• Promoting better post capture handling practices for commercial and recreational fishers.
• A program to collect the information needed to monitor the mulloway population.
Fisho was told that a draft recovery program for mulloway will be available for public comment in the near future.
In related news, a NSW Fisheries spokesman has rejected rumours that commercial netting of Australian salmon was set to increase. Highly valued as a sportfish, salmon were heavily netted and used as catfood and lobster bait up until a few years ago when strict restrictions were imposed on beach haulers targeting these popular sportfish. Commercial operators have lobbied hard to be allowed to again decimate salmon schools but the Fisheries spokesman said there were no plans to relax netting restrictions currently in place.
Fisho understands that NSW anglers are overwhelmingly opposed to any moves to increase commercial catch of any species, including popular sportfish such as Aussie salmon.