AUSTRALIA - The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is proposing to undertake a trial in Port Stephens to reduce the incidence of marine turtles drowning in recreational crab catching gear.
The proposed trial will require witches hats and some crab traps used in Port Stephens to be modified to limit unintentional interactions of turtles with this gear.
DPI Acting Director Recreational and Indigenous Fisheries, Cameron Westaway, said monitoring data in Port Stephens since 2011 has shown a relatively high incidence of turtle drownings in recreational crab gear compared to other areas.
"Recent changes to recreational fishing rules – including reducing the number of witches hats from five to four and increasing the number of crab traps from one to two – is expected to have some impact in reducing interaction between turtles (and other non-target species) and set crab gear across the state," Mr Westaway said.
"However, given the significantly higher reported drowning rate of turtles in Port Stephens and in recognition of its importance as a habitat area for turtles, additional management action is considered necessary to address this specific issue in Port Stephens."
"DPI is proposing to implement a trial requiring witches hats to be modified to operate as lift nets. Rather than acting as inverted entanglement nets, the modified nets will be required to lie flat on the seabed, significantly reducing the interaction potential with non-target species."
The trial would also require fishers to reduce the entrance size of collapsible rectangular crab traps, which will still enable crabs to enter the trap but restrict entry of non-target species such as turtles.
"Every year more than one million recreational anglers wet a line in NSW – it is important we have current rules in place which ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries and minimise impacts on the environment," Mr Westaway said.
A local consultation paper is available on the DPI website and the NSW Government is asking the community to provide feedback on the proposed trial.
Submissions close on 2 February 2015.
For more information on how to modify crab traps to reduce the chance of impacting on non-target species, visit the DPI website.
TheFishSite News Desk