Nets legal near where turtles died

THE battle between commercial netting and saving the local turtle population continues with confirmation that netting at the mouth of the Boyne River is legal.

Despite the unexplained deaths of a large number of juvenile and adult turtles found washed up on beaches in Boyne Island and Tannum Sands last week, so far there is no solid evidence to suggest that illegal, or legal, netting is to blame.

While mounting speculation points to the seemingly healthy turtles having died as a result of drowning in nearby nets, Fisheries Queensland has responded to questioning by The Observer by verifying this area is open to commercial netting.

In a statement released to The Observer, Fisheries Queensland has stated that while the Boyne River is closed to commercial netting from September 1 to April 30 each year there is a boundary across the mouth of the Boyne River, delineated by FB boards, where seaward of these boards is open to commercial netting.

A spokesman on behalf of Fisheries Queensland said the Boyne River is closed to the taking of all fish for all persons 200 metres upstream to 400 metres downstream of the Awoonga Dam wall.

“The mouth of the Boyne River and the inlet are classed as being in a dugong protection zone B and as such are deemed to be in regulated waters,” the Fisheries Queensland spokesman said.

“A commercial fisher who is fishing in the near shore zone in the regulated waters can use a set mesh net only if the net is no longer than 200 metres; each net has a mesh size of at least 100mm but no more than 215mm; and the entire net is in near shore waters while it is being used.”

Furthermore, the law stipulates the distance between the first and last net is no more than 1km; the nets are no more than 800 metres apart; and any person using the nets is between the first and last net and no more than 800 metres from any of the nets.

The spokesman said the requirement for a person to be within 800 metres of a set mesh net at all times is in place to ensure that any bycatch such as turtles and dugongs can be immediately removed from the net and have the best chance of survival.

He said on the spot fines of up to $1000 will be given to people who are found to be breaking the rules.

“More serious matters may be taken to court and have a maximum penalty of $100,000,” the spokesman said.

“Public information on suspected illegal fishing is essential for us to ensure compliance with fishing rules and, in turn, maintain the sustainability of our fisheries.

“However, information reported to the hotline needs to be detailed and timely if it is to be used it in tracking suspected illegal fishing activities.”

The spokesman also defended claims of the Gladstone Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol (QFBP) Office being unable to investigate reports of the turtles having drowned in commercial nets due to limited staff numbers, stating they had a full complement of staff.

He said if sufficient detail is provided, an investigation may be undertaken by QFBP.

“Less detailed information is retained for intelligence purposes,” the spokesman said.

“All information received is valuable, and members of the public are encouraged to report any suspected illegal fishing activity.”

The Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116 is a free 24-hour number designed for people to report illegal fishing activities.

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