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Two futures for Moreton Bay fisheries
  |  First Published: November 2017



In the last month, I’ve seen firsthand two futures of what Moreton Bay recreational fishing could become. The first, hopefully a bright future for Moreton Bay and the surrounding communities, I saw at a kid’s fishing day run by Virginia Nundah Fishing Club on Bribie Island.

As luck would have it, this was the same weekend that the new Moreton Bay Rail Link was opened, so the local area was swarming with media and politicians. As most of you would have seen, this included the hierarchy of all three levels of government. With this level of scrutiny on their doorstep, it was no surprise that no illegal netting went on that long weekend – none of the usual highly visible netting on the public beaches.

As a result, I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the best kid’s fishing days ever. All the kids caught fish. For a couple it was a first. Parents and grandparents watched on and madly took photos. It was a magic day with the sun out bright and clear, a very slight breeze and barely a cloud in the sky.

While the kids were catching their fish, they had all sizes of watercraft head past them out into Moreton Bay to enjoy the day. They had dolphins playing just offshore, and even skydivers landed on the beach right behind them. When we all sat down together for a sausage sizzle at lunch, there were many happy faces around the BBQ. The kids had a great fun day at the beach catching fish with their parents and grandparents. They were all making plans to go again.

It was fantastic to not see a phone anywhere. It was hard to believe it was the same group I watched getting ready a few hours earlier – parents complaining about kids on phones and not listening to instructions, and kids complaining about the intermittent reception where we were. Amazing what a couple of hours of salt water therapy with friends and family can achieve.

The alternate reality I glimpsed was definitely not so rosy. Queensland tourism has been slowly recovering from the hit it took 8-10 years ago with the high price of the Australian dollar. The Japanese tourist market on which we had previously relied very heavily had significantly dwindled. Subsequently, a lot of hard work then saw Queensland turn around as a priority destination for nature-based tourism – tourism businesses and towns that relied on it were slowly starting to rebuild.

When UNESCO began to investigate whether or not the Great Barrier Reef was in danger, this rebuild started to weaken. Confidence has since started to turn around, but there’s definitely a shaky foundation. Media outlets have shared images of dead dugongs from the north as a result of net interactions.

Moreton Bay has one of the state’s largest dugong populations, so it’s only a matter of time before the media gets a hold of similar images from Moreton Bay. There have already been multiple dugong deaths in Moreton Bay with the cause of death undetermined.

In September, we saw television coverage of a whale caught in a net in Moreton Bay that was so distressed it nearly headed under the Houghton Highway and into Hayes Inlet. The water there is so shallow that it would have been virtually impossible to get it out. The risk to iconic populations of turtles, dugongs and dolphins and migratory populations of various species of whales has become critical. Gillnets are already listed as a threatening process.

September also saw a significant spike in reports of beach raking both legally and illegally along the pristine beaches of Moreton Island National Park by residents, visitors and local business operators. Sadly, the next kid’s fishing day I was a part of was in stark contrast to the previous one.

We had perfect weather and great tides. This is normally a prime time for flathead and whiting along the beach between Cowan and Tangalooma. Unfortunately, between 31 students aged 12-18, there was one flathead, one tarwhine, two bream and four whiting caught.

This was despite our team providing them with ideal bait and replacing many rigs with more suitable ones. Assisting the kids on the beach, we had a team of very experienced current competition anglers, most of whom have regional, state and/or national titles to their names.

It’s way past time that gillnets were removed from Moreton Bay. They are indiscriminately endangering our megafauna on the world stage in addition to causing localized depletion along our beaches. The constant raking of the beaches for mile after mile, day after day, could have unknown serious long term effects on our local fisheries.

Remember that most of these operators used to catch mullet in the bay. In 1991, they took over 1023t. By 2014, they were only able to get 380t. What kind of future does that predict for our Moreton Bay fisheries and indeed our international ecotourism reputation?

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The kids had a great time at the Bribie Kids Fishing Day, Nundah.

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This young angler must be proud!

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A lot of rods out – kids had a great opportunity to get into the action!

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Junior anglers at Moreton Bay.

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