Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance president John Bennett reckons recreational fishing will continue to improve in the wake of the introduction of the St Helens to Cape Hillsborough net free zone in November, 2015.
Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance president John Bennett reckons recreational fishing will continue to improve in the wake of the introduction of the St Helens to Cape Hillsborough net free zone in November, 2015. Luke Mortimer

Report gives net free zones big tick, more fish being caught

RECREATIONAL fishing in the region has been better than ever after the introduction of net-free zones, according to a federally funded report.

Assessing Fishing Trends in the St Helens to Cape Hillsborough Net Free Zone 2015-2018 states catch rates have increased substantially since the first of four Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance boat ramp surveys was conducted prior to the zone's establishment in November 2015.

Numbers of fish caught rose from 2.5 to 5.1 - a 101 per cent increase - and the percentage of legal fish also jumped between the surveys. In the first baseline survey, 32 per cent of fish caught were legal, while that rose to 66.8 per cent in survey four, the report states.

The alliance strongly advocated for the establishment of the St Helens to Cape Hillsborough Net-Free Zone.

Alliance president John Bennett said the report, produced with Reef Catchments and volunteers, made it clear the zones were ramping up recreational fishing in the region. He noted there'd been an increase in catches of species not often found in our waters, such as king threadfin.

"Fishing has improved, we've seen fish species coming back that we've very rarely seen before," he said.

"We've done this (report) to quantify the improvements in fishing in the net-free zone since the removal of commercial gill nets.

"People have been catching small numbers of king threadfin but it is good to see them.

"The reason why king threadfin are so important is because they're a species which are very susceptible to localised depletion through commercial gill nets."

Mr Bennett added "spillover" from the zone resulted in better fishing in areas nearby, such as Constant Creek.

Reef Catchments stated it was pleased to have been involved in the process.


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