Untangling the Fishing Legislation
During the COVID-19 lockdown, fishing was one of the few activities aside from work or shopping for food that was deemed essential, making 2020 an ideal time to wet a line.
Our local area offers many excellent fishing opportunities, from rock fishing spots to boat ramps and spearfishing, but there are also a significant number of state and local rules and regulations that anglers need to be aware of before heading out to find their catch.
Firstly, the state government requires anyone fishing in salt or freshwater to pay a NSW Recreational Fishing Fee when spearfishing, hand lining, trapping, bait collecting or prawn netting, and even if you are holding fishing gear in, on, or next to the water.
The fees are $7 for three days, $14 for a month, or $35 for a year, which is roughly the same price of three serves of fish and chips from Clovelly’s famous Out of the Blue chipper. Fishers are also required to carry their receipt of payment on them at all times while fishing.
Having paid this fee doesn’t give fishers free rein over the waters in the Eastern Suburbs though, with a substantial area of coastline belonging to the Bronte-Coogee Aquatic Reserve.
The reserve extends from the southern end of Bronte Beach, south to the rock baths at Coogee, and 100 metres offshore. Line fishing for blue groper (Achoerodus viridis) is totally prohibited inside the aquatic reserve, and spearfishing isn’t allowed in Clovelly Bay, Gordons Bay, and surrounding waters. Spearfishers can travel further south to Little Bay, a popular spearfishing spot, but are required to fish 50 metres out from any recreational swimmers in the water.
It is also prohibited to collect cunjevoi or any marine invertebrates in the Bronte-Coogee Aquatic Reserve, with the exception of blacklip abalone, eastern rock lobster and southern rock lobster.
Rock fishing is hugely popular in the east, and it’s rare not to see a few people fishing from the rocks along the coastal walk. It is also one of the most dangerous sports in Australia, with 18 rock fishing fatalities recorded just in Randwick over recent years. This led to the introduction of mandatory life jackets under The Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016 (NSW).
A spokesperson from Randwick Council said safety was their highest priority.
“We encourage everybody choosing to rock fish to ensure they wear a life jacket, appropriate footwear such as cleats, fish with a friend, and check weather conditions before fishing,” the spokesperson told The Beast. “If it looks too dangerous to fish, it is too dangerous.”
Randwick was the first location to implement the law. As of June 2018, on-the-spot fines of $100 can be issued for anyone rock fishing without a life jacket, anywhere from Clovelly to La Perouse.
While other councils including Sutherland Shire and Northern Beaches Councils have opted in to the legislation, Waverley and Woollahra are yet to enforce life jackets.
Before venturing out to catch your dinner, it’s important to know which LGA you’ll be fishing in. For more information, please visit the council websites or www.dpi.nsw.gov.au.