Fishing Legislation Changes from February 2015

The below changes to Queensland’s freshwater fishing rules commenced on 1 February 2015.

New closed areas adjacent to waterway barriers

Closures are in place adjacent to most dams, barrages and weirs throughout Queensland to protect fish that congregate in these areas during their annual migration. Until now no closures were in place adjacent to the waterway barriers on the North Pine River at North Pine Dam, Sideling Creek at Lake Kurwongbah, Teviot Brook at Wyaralong Dam, and Yabba Creek at Borumba Dam. To provide the fisheries resources in these areas with the same protection provided at other dams, barrages and weirs throughout Queensland, the waters 100 metres upstream to 200 metres downstream of these waterway barriers are now closed to all forms of fishing.

Greater protection for Mary River cod

The Mary River cod is listed as an endangered species under the Commonwealth Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Currently a closed season is in place to protect the species during its spawning season. An exception to this is closure is currently provided in nine listed impoundments where the species has been stocked.

It has recently been discovered however that Mary River cod are breeding in the waters within and upstream of these impoundments. In order to provide increased protection to individuals breeding in these areas, a three month spawning closure from 1 September to 30 November each year has been introduced for all non-tidal waters, including those impoundments that are stocked. Taking Mary River cod in all other waters will still be prohibited at all times.

It is also evident that fishing for other species results in incidental capture of Mary River cod at some locations, putting them and their ability to breed at risk. For this reason there is currently a permanent line fishing closure in place on Obi Obi Creek. There is now evidence of new breeding sites downstream of the existing closure boundary. To enhance the recovery of this endangered species it is proposed to extend the existing line fishing closure on Obi Obi Creek downstream for an additional 5 kilometres to Crossing 4 Bridge.

Greater protection for Murray cod

The Murray cod is listed as a vulnerable species under the EPBC Act. Currently the majority of the species’ natural range is open to fishing during their spawning season. Spawning closures only exist in the Barwon, Macintyre and Dumaresq rivers on the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Again the issue is that these fish can be caught during the spawning season putting them and their ability to breed, at risk. To provide greater protection to Murray cod during their spawning period, the current three month Murray cod spawning season closure which applies to the Border rivers has been expanded to apply to all Queensland waters contained in the Murray Darling drainage Division.

An exception to this closed season applies to Beardmore Dam, Beehive Dam, Connolly Dam, Cooby Dam, Coolmunda Dam, Glenlyon Dam, Leslie Dam, Storm King Dam where these fish are stocked.

 Greater protection for silver perch

Silver perch have recently been listed as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. At present, anglers must release any silver perch caught in the Warrego and Paroo rivers and may take up to five in other Queensland waters. Further protection is required to ensure their take remains sustainable in Queensland.

A combined possession limit of five fish in total applies for Welch’s grunter, Barcoo grunter and silver perch. To provide greater protection to silver perch, no more than two of these fish may be silver perch. The no take restrictions on silver perch in the Warrego and Paroo Rivers remain unchanged.

Edgbaston hardyhead and cling gobies become no take species

Edgbaston hardyhead and cling gobies are rare, have a limited range and are targeted by amateur aquarium collectors. The issue for these species is that populations are naturally very small and current management arrangements place them at real risk of overfishing that could lead to their extinction. To provide adequate protection for these species, their take has now been prohibited.

Changes to possession limits for freshwater species

A number of other fish have also been identified as requiring specific protection to ensure their sustainability. There is a need to either introduce a specific possession and/or size limit or amend an existing possession and/or size limit. Those species which have had in-possession limits introduced or changed are outlined in the table below:

Species

In-possession limit

Size limit

Freshwater mullet 20 per person Minimum size limit of 30cm
Gulf grunter Add to the combined limit of 10 with sooty, khaki and lake grunter Minimum size of 28cm
Lake grunter Add to the combined limit of 10 with sooty, khaki and Gulf grunter
Eel-tailed catfish of the genus Anodontiglanis Add to the combined limit of 5 for eel tailed catfish

In addition to the changes to the possession limits for those species above, a possession limit of 20 per species has been adopted for any freshwater fin fish which was not already subject to a possession limit. This approach has been adopted to reduce the risk of these species being subjected to unsustainable levels of fishing pressure.

Prohibition on the use of marine baits in freshwater systems

Introduction of disease or parasites into new areas can have serious impacts on native fish populations and may impact on the future viability of freshwater fish stocking programs. While to date there are no reports of this having occurred in Australian freshwater systems, recent risk assessments show that there is heightened risk of disease transfer between catchments through the use of freshwater animals such as fish and crustaceans and saltwater animals such as yabbies, prawns and small fish as bait. While there are already specific regulations controlling the use of some live bait to help prevent disease transfer, these are believed to be inadequate given the expansion of recreational fishing in freshwater.

To prevent the spread of disease and parasites in Queensland’s freshwater systems, the use of baits from the marine (saltwater) environment has been prohibited unless the bait has been frozen, cooked or preserved.

New rules relating to the use of set lines

Set lines involve the use of lines that are baited, attached to a fixed object and then left unattended for long periods of time in order to catch fish.

Set lines have the potential to impact target and non-target species both from an animal welfare and sustainability perspective. The low cost of set lines means fishers sometimes abandon their gear leaving the lines in the water which continue to fish (known as ghost fishing). In other cases, because the lines are not attended, when non-target species such as turtles, platypus and birds are caught in the lines they become entangled and subsequently sustain injury or drown.

To address the issues associated with set lines, their use in Queensland is prohibited. Fishers in non-tidal waters may use up to six fishing lines but they must be no more than 50 metres from any of the fishing lines.

Changes to rules relating to funnel and round traps

Funnel traps, including opera house traps, are often used by recreational anglers to target freshwater crayfish. These traps are cheap, extremely popular and are an effective means of catching freshwater crayfish. It is estimated that more than 200,000 of these traps are purchased in Queensland every year.

Even with strict design requirements around their construction, protected species are still being captured in these traps, most commonly in abandoned equipment in flowing waterways. The most recent example was reported in 2014, when two platypus were found drowned in an opera house trap in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

To minimise the potential for interactions with protected and non-target species, the use of certain funnel and round traps east of a line following the Great Dividing Range and the Gore Highway (Highway 39) is prohibited outside of 44 listed impoundments (see map).

This means that:

  • Funnel traps and round traps with a rigid opening size of up to 5cm maximum in all its dimensions can be used in all Queensland non-tidal waters.
  • Funnel traps and round traps with a rigid opening size between 5cm and 10cm can only be used in listed impoundments east of a line following the Great Dividing Range and east of the Gore Highway (A39) or in non-tidal waters west of the aforementioned boundary.

Open top pyramid traps can be used in all Queensland freshwater areas provided they have:

  • A single, rigid top opening, parallel to the base of the trap with a minimum size of 15cm in all its dimensions;
  • A mesh size of no more than 25mm;
  • A maximum base size of 60cm in length and width; and
  • A minimum height of 15cm (measured in a vertical line from the base of the trap to the height of the opening).

Marking of freshwater traps

Following concerns raised about the potential risk to non-target species from lost or abandoned freshwater traps, all freshwater traps not attached to something stationary above the surface of the water must be marked with solid light coloured float that is at least 15cm in any dimension.

(Source: https://www.daff.qld.gov.au)