Noosa's battle over fishing nets has raged for a century

AN old trolley at the Noosa River thant one was used to unload the large hauls of fish caught.
AN old trolley at the Noosa River thant one was used to unload the large hauls of fish caught. CONTRIBUTED

NOOSA'S ban the nets campaign on the North Shore, which the new Noosa Council has shown signs of rekindling is no modern-day phenomenon sparked by dwindling recreational fish takes.

The Historical Ecology of the Noosa Estuary Fisheries study presented to Noosa Council by Dr Ruth H. Thurstan of the University of Queensland said: "Maintaining the attraction of Tewantin as a recreational fishing centre was a factor in the prohibition of net fishing in certain parts of the Noosa River and lakes from the early decades of the 20th century.

"According to 1934 Department of Harbours and Marine records, in 1914 net fishing was prohibited in parts of the Noosa River and Lake Cootharaba, with further limits applied in 1919.

"From 1925 further portions of the Noosa River were closed to net fishing (Department of Harbours and Marine 1934).

"In 1933 a number of commercial fishers formally requested that Weyba Creek be closed to net fishing for two years, to enable the fish to travel into the lake where they could be targeted."

The report, part of research which has led to a planned Noosa trial to increase marine diversity in the Noosa River, said portions of the lower river, as well as Weyba Creek, were subsequently closed to net fishing.

"Despite these closures, it was widely believed that line fishing was becoming poorer as a result of extensive net fishing and consequent destruction of young fish (e.g. Courier Mail, Oct 6, 1936; Department of Harbours and Marine 1937).

"However, subsequent enquires by the fisheries inspector led him to report that line fishing had not decreased: Every one I spoke to (about fishing) gave the same reply, very good, could not be better.

BIG HAUL: Net fishers catch a mother lode of fish in Noosa, leading to calls for bans.
BIG HAUL: Net fishers catch a mother lode of fish in Noosa, leading to calls for bans. Contributed

"This is the outcome of the recent rains, which goes to show that when poor results are obtained by the anglers, natural conditions such as prolonged spells of dry weather are primarily the cause, and not net-fishing.

"As a general rule, when line-fishing is poor, net-fishing is also poor.

"Another factor which could be taken into consideration is the shallow nature of the river, and the number of small motor-boats cruising about; this tends to frighten the fish."

Dr Thurstan said in 1939 three separate petitions were presented to the Fisheries Department.

The first, from the local net fishers, requested that the closed area at the mouth of the Noosa River and the

South Shore be opened to net fishing for several nights a week during July and August.

Dr Thurstan said the second and third came from local residents, both objecting to the proposed reopening of the closed area, with one requesting that further closures occur.

"These residents, however, distinguished between net fishing and bait nets, which many recreational fishers used at the time, stating that bait nets should continue to be allowed within the closed area."

However the fisheries inspector said: "I do not think the request a reasonable one, if bait-nets were allowed, it would be more detrimental to the young fish life than the ordinary fishing nets.

"I do not consider that the closing of further waters would be of any benefit to line fishing, nor to the general advancement and progress of Tewantin, or the professional fishermen."

Dr Thurstan said from this period onwards "two opposed camps emerged, one wishing to uphold the popularity of the Noosa River as an angler's paradise, and the other keen to exploit the available commercial opportunities".

Topics:  fishing outdoor-living

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