New mulloway rules let commercial fishers off the hook

THE ministerial announcement about the revised mulloway bag and size limits came an hour or so after last week's column was filed - and it was hardly worth stopping the presses for.

Despite the much-vaunted 'mulloway recovery plan', five years in the making (or the procrastinating) and the lodging of many hundreds of submissions on the ensuing discussion paper, it was all a fait accompli.

"The NSW Government extensively consulted with the fishing community on arrangements to recover mulloway stocks over several months and received strong support," Minister Hodgkinson said.

But in true Yes Minister style, the department's bureaucrats asked for suggestions only after they knew exactly what they were going to do.

The discussion paper produced only discussion and disgust.

So rec fishers have ended up with the two-fish limit and each fish must be at least 70cm, at which length most female fish have already bred once. That complies with current fisheries management philosophy on sustainability.

Very few rec fishos with any sense would complain about that. It's doing the right thing for the species and two jewies over 70cm (about 3.5kg) is a lot of fish meals - if you can catch two!

Therein lies the problem.

Commercial fishers now also have the 70cm minimum size, but they're allowed to cheat.

Commercial estuary general meshers will be permitted a by-catch possession allowance of 10 fish between 45cm to 70cm 'to avoid wastage'.

I can't find where in the new Fisheries directions whether that's per day, per endorsement holder or what, but it's for 'incidental' capture. Rest assured, these fish will fetch current market price, so that's at least 10 extra fish that the pros can look forward to a pay from every time they net undersized jew.

A 500kg limit has been imposed for commercial ocean haulers.

These commercial restrictions still permit the netting of large aggregations of spawning or travelling jewfish.

The 500kg possession limit applies for each endorsement holder, so a bunch of licensed individual netters, each with an ocean hauling endorsement and crewing together, means it's easy to pull out a few tonnes of mulloway breeding stock without breaking the law.

Almost 82% of the 497 submissions came from rec fishers and 37 from commercial fishers. A total of 66% of submissions were received online.

Of the 37 commercial fishing submissions received, 14 identified concerns over wastage of fish under the proposed new restrictions, 10 supported additional restrictions to commercial fishing to achieve recovery while five supported introduction of a total allowable catch or quota system.

Three commercial fishing submissions supported a ban on estuary general fishing and another two pro submissions wanted a ban on ocean hauling.

All of these submissions suggested the recreational catch was smaller than this estimate and that commercial fishers were the primary harvesters of mulloway in NSW.

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