Eastern Suburbs Sydney
Sue Doran takes up concerns about illegal spearfishing in the Aquatic Reserve
Clovelly Fish Species
Recently a number of locals have approached me reporting spearfishing in the Aquatic Reserve around Clovelly and Gordons Bay. This is an illegal activity.
You may be aware that the Aquatic Reserve runs from Bronte Baths to Giles at Coogee and 100m out to sea. Line fishing is permitted (except to catch the Groper) but spearfishing is banned between the northern shore of Clovelly and the southern shore of Gordons Bay. According to the Fisheries Management Act 1994, the penalty for spearfishing in this area is up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of more than ten thousand dollars. Possession of protected fish in this area could result in a penalty of five thousand dollars and up to 3 months in gaol.
The issue, however, is not the penalty. Rather, the issue is enforcement. The number of fisheries staff is grossly inadequate for the task. As a result, I have been advised that members of the public have approached spearfishers directly. This is unwise.
Fisheries suggest, rather, that anyone who witnesses spearfishing in these areas should:
1. Note down
- time, date, location of incident
- number of people & description
- Rego numbers of cars/boats
- if possible, the type of fish
- the nature of the spearfishing
2. Take photos if you can
a) 1800 043 536 during business hours Monday – Friday or
b) Other times: 0419 185 521 or 9529 6021
Fisheries staff may be near our area. If not they will accumulate reports to gather a picture for future prosecution.
But we still have a problem – well, a few!
The first problem is that there are only 4 Fisheries officers to cover from Bondi to Stanwell Park to the Mountains and the oceans attached. So, there’s very little likelihood of them being anywhere near when you phone.
Second, although Clovelly Beach is relatively well signposted, Gordons Bay is very poorly covered. This opens the way for a defence in court of honest and reasonable mistake. The Fisheries signs are old and most don’t mention spearfishing. New Council signage does include a slashed image of a fish/spear but it is very small and can easily be lost amongst the large number of warnings and images of banned activities.
The third problem is that we do not have access to reports about spearfishing and prosecution figures. We need more transparent information on the Fisheries website.
Fourth, the boundary of the banned zone is ambiguous when in water.
Spearfishing is not only a risk to protected fish species but also to human swimmers and divers. As your local Greens candidate for NSW Parliament, I’d like to assist in solving this significant environmental, social and legal problem. There are more issues, but for now, there are a number of actions we can take, and given there’s an election coming up something might be done!
These actions are:
1. Tell the Minister for Primary Industries, Steve Whan, that
• this community is alarmed by the continuation of spearfishing within the aquatic reserve and the inadequacy of the Government’s response
• all of the Fisheries signage must be updated without delay and
• a website is needed to provide the community with a record of notifications and prosecutions
• the ban on spearfishing needs to be extended to all of the Aquatic Reserve to remove ambiguity
• Fisheries staffing levels need to be increased in order to have effective enforcement Phone (02) 9228 3800?Fax (02) 92283804 ?email@example.com
2. So that we can keep track of notifications until a more public record is available, every time you phone Fisheries with a notification, send me an email with the same details: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Contact your current local member of Parliament, Paul Pearce, to see what he has been doing about this problem – perhaps you could email me those responses too
4. Unless the signs are updated soon, perhaps we’ll need to have a community working bee to paint our own unmistakeable banner about spearfishing!
Please, let me know what you think.