Conservation groups have renewed their call for a total ban on the use of witches hats as a recreational crab fishing method in the Port Stephens Marine Park.
EcoNetwork-Port Stephens and the newly formed Marine Parks Association (MPA) have commended the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) for finally taking action to modify some crab fishing techniques in a one-year trial.
“However, the new regulations don’t go far enough,” said Dr Bruce Pease, President of EcoNetwork and Citizen Science Coordinator for MPA.
He said: “We support the two new changes that require modification of wide-mouth traps and prevent the overnight setting of any type of lift net. These regulations will undoubtedly help reduce the numbers of turtles that drown in crab fishing gear annually.
But the third regulation for the trial – the removal of the small float at the apex of the tangle net cone and attachment of the float rope to the metal hoop rather than the tangle net cone on witches hats – will do little to stop ensnaring of turtles, sea birds and other animals that approach the bait.
The modified gear is still a tangle net rather than a lift net because the tangle net cone can still be legally deployed on top of the bait.”
Dr Pease said that witches hats are banned in Queensland and South Australia because they kill sea turtles and DPI has banned the use of all types of lift nets from some areas in Lake Macquarie.
“EcoNetwork and MPA will continue to ask why DPI refuses to consider banning the use of witches hats/tangle nets in the Port Stephens Marine Park where they are known to entangle and kill threatened sea turtle species. There is a wide range of much more ecologically friendly crab fishing gear available on the shelves of many local retail stores.”
“Does DPI really expect fishers to report live or dead turtles captured in their modified witches hats during the trial? What will be the criteria for deciding that the trial modification of witches hats is ineffective? One dead turtle? Five dead turtles? Ten dead turtles?”
Bruce Pease, President
EcoNetwork – Port Stephens Inc. Box 97 Nelson Bay 2315.