Dire Christmas in Teewah
  |  First Published: December 2008

There have been a few reports of whiting, dart and tarwhine caught along Teewah Beach lately, but unfortunately the fishing prospects along Teewah Beach for Christmas are not looking too bright.

I have gone into detail since I first began writing for QFM as to the reasons for the disastrous shape of this fishery. Commercial fishing, algal blooms, excessive bag limits and poor pipi stocks would all be contributing factors. Irrespective of the reasons, the fish are no longer here in numbers and something needs be done.

Algal blooms are a major problem at Teewah Beach. Recently the surf zone along Teewah Beach is greenish brown with a microscopic algae called anaulus australis. A recent trip to Fraser Island was a great disappointment with the island completely surrounded by the same algae.

Tackling this problem is a long term proposal that the State and Federal Governments are currently investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to improve the scenario. The majority of this investment however is being directed towards improving agricultural practices on land adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

Pipi numbers are undoubtedly in poor shape along all of our beaches. Again a long-term plan of reducing pipi bag limits is needed to proliferate stocks. For the sake of saving the failing fishery, then fifty pipis per person is by far more than necessary.

The current bag limits for recreational anglers of surf species, are in my opinion, nothing short of a joke. Currently there is no bag limit for bream and dart have neither a size nor bag limit. We just can't afford for recreational anglers to be able to take twenty fish at a time anymore and therefore action by Fisheries on surf species bag limits is also a matter of urgency.

Which leaves us with the commercial fishing side of things.

In last months QFM I wrote an article about Strategic Directions for Cooloola. Included in that document released by the Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, is the introduction of vehicle access permits to the Cooloola Recreation Area. These permits are coming no matter who fights against them or how. The revenue raised from these permits is likely to be very substantial indeed and directing this revenue back into the region poses a problem for the Minister that isn't easily solved.

So here arrives an opportunity for the Minister to do something of a positive nature for our fish stocks and for recreational fishing that partially solves his problem of where to direct some of the revenue raised. And that is to 'buy back' commercial fishing licenses on the Noosa North Shore out of monies contributed by beach users.

The buy back of commercial fishing licenses using revenue raised from vehicle permits would, in my opinion, be unlikely to offend any interest group. Even the netters themselves would welcome this measure as they are on the edge of viability now and are simply waiting for such a buy back to occur. And with few of the fish caught in these nets intended for human consumption, then the non fishing sector of the general public is losing little, if anything from this plan either.

This measure that would also have almost immediate results. The return of fish to areas where beach seine netting has been banned is well documented. Fish stocks of surf species are however currently very low and it would take a few years before successful spawning of those fish returning would see stocks rebound to the levels we would all like. Anglers I'm sure, would be happier to pay for a permit if the potential actually exists to take home the permit value in fish fillets. But the longer that nothing is done in this regard, the longer it would be before we have fish in the surf again.

The entire collapse of the fishery is a distinct possibility and to believe we are somehow immune from this scenario is ignorant and incomprehensible. The examples of stock collapses of mullet and tailor for instance around the world are too numerous to be ignored. We are heading in this direction and it would seem quite rapidly.

At this stage, I have received very little assistance from the recreational fishing community in my pursuit of the buy back of commercial fishing licenses. If anything, the organisations that should be fighting for such a buy back are busy opposing the introduction of the permit system. It appears they would prefer more beach traffic to spook the fish away from the beach and reduce recreational angling prospects even further.

One gentleman in particular is doing what he can to assist the cause and has approached the issue with a very realistic attitude. Bruce Alvey is a man that I have always admired for his integrity, his desire to maintain the health of our fishery and for the quality of the reels he manufactures. But there are plenty of other individuals out there who could do more. And readers of QFM can play a role here too. All that is required is a brief email to the Minister, stating that you support the buy back of commercial fishing licenses in Cooloola using revenue from vehicle permits. Send these emails to Mr Andrew McNamara on this --e-mail address hidden-- – you might not think you can make a difference, that you are just one voice, but if everyone writes in, then that is a lot of small voices put together to make too much noise to ignore.

Long term readers of QFM would be aware of my desire to do something about commercial fishing on the Noosa North Shore. I have received plenty of criticism about my agendas, and it is true, as a resident of Teewah, I would directly benefit through being able to catch fish along Teewah Beach again. But so too would the tens of thousands of anglers that come to Cooloola in the hope of catching fish.

I have proposals in place as to how some commercial fishing could continue here for the harvesting of mullet and other species for human consumption and not that of cats, that are sustainable. The Minister will receive these proposals along with other proposals on Strategic Directions for Cooloola that are designed to assist him in striking the balance between the commercial and recreational usage of Cooloola, and the unique environmental aspects of Cooloola that we as a community must maintain.

It is not just the fish that are affected by commercial netting. Ocean going birds such as a variety of terns are totally dependant on the health of our fishery. Migratory terns are protected species that have international treaties in place that demand that we maintain the health of our fish stocks. These terns are now being forced to travel far greater distances from their roosting grounds to feed.

Dolphins are also protected species and their survival prospects are seriously jeopardised by reduced fish stocks. Then there are the turtles, sharks, cormorants, gannets, sea eagles and kites to name just a few of the animals dependant on these fish.

My agenda is to preserve inshore fish stocks for the health of all dependant animals and to improve the fishery for all recreational anglers and commercial fishing. And if I happen to be able to catch a few fish every now and then as a result of my own efforts, then so be it.

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