ENVIRONMENT: Winter worries

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Image: Patrick Linehan

NSW seems to have had several months of decidedly weird weather which has continued on well past the major flood events of earlier in the year. Lots of big seas and strong winds have made fishing trip planning exceedingly difficult. Rock platforms have been cleaned off by seriously big waves (five metres plus) and just as the bait species start to repopulate or regrow another big weather event occurs…almost weekly. Predicting seems to have been even harder for the forecasters than usual. Today, for instance, is supposed to be seriously rainy on the Sydney coast. In reality, the sky is bright blue, although there is a deadly cold south-west wind blowing.

Trouble is, when the forecast is bad the temptation is to not set the alarm to catch the good early tide and then to sit around for the rest of the day regretting your choice, when the day turns out to be much better than expected. There’s only so much gear maintenance to be done, so then you read, follow up your emails or listen to the radio. And inevitably worry about stuff.

Yesterday there was a good report on platypus and Macquarie perch populations being found in the Georges River. Endangered species in Sydney’s suburbs, that’s great. But of course, there’s a problem: discarded fishing line and recently banned opera house yabby traps are still posing a risk to the platypus.

Earlier in the week there were some encouraging photos of Murray cod being caught in the central west. But again, big risks. The cod have been taking advantage of the current mouse plague and snacking on the little buggers. The mice have already been poisoned with some pretty toxic stuff and it seems there’s even more potent poison about to be made available to embattled farmers. But what happens to the cod and other native fish partial to a mouse meal? And raptors and carnivorous marsupials who’ll also eat the mice, and galahs and cockatoos that feed on the poisoned grain?

And then there’s humpback whales. Numbers have rebuilt to such numbers that the Commonwealth environmental agency is reported to be contemplating taking them off the endangered species list. What happens then when we argue to the Japanese they shouldn’t start hunting humpback whales again because of their endangered status? Incidentally, excitement at watching breaching humpbacks was tempered this week with a report of an 18-year-old having his neck broken when a breaching humpback landed on the boat he was in.

Now to artificial reefs. Fisheries management agencies around the country are busy putting artificial reefs down all over, often using angler licence revenue to fund them. Hopefully, locations are well thought out so as not to disturb existing natural structures and ecosystems. But some critics argue that aggregating fish on these man-made reefs can promote overfishing and that in some cases the growth on them might be from the “wrong”, that is invasive, species.

Roll on better weather so there’s less time to worry about these issues, But, whatever the weather, they and a lot more like them remain important.

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