The Annual ‘Fish Kill’ is on again with hundreds of competitors descending on Evans Head to try their luck from the 5th to the 12th of July at the local ‘Fishing Classic’.
While many competitors logged in with Marine Rescue as they crossed the treacherous Evans Head bar, many didn’t. Perhaps those organising the kill need to make it a condition of registration that boats must log in before they cross the bar or they risk disqualification.
There is no doubt that boats get into trouble as witnessed by a boat being towed in on the first day of the competition.
The Water Police and Maritime Officers were on hand to keep an eye on proceedings in the Evans River.
There’s little doubt Evans Head is a great place for fishing but you have to wonder what the impact of such intensive fishing has on local fish stocks particularly breeding fish. Local professional fishermen have complained for years about the big catches of snapper full of fish roe (fish eggs). Primary Industry studies have shown that the snapper (Pagrus auratus) is “growth overfished” with three times as many lost to fishing as happens in nature. The average snapper is less than five years of age when it is caught whereas they usually live to 25 years of age. In human terms that’s equivalent to knocking off humans at around 14 to 15 years of age. Not good from a reproductive point of view.
Tonnage of commercial catches of snapper have also declined significantly as has happened for other fish stocks around the world. While studies show that fish move around there is still the question of how long does it take an area to recover when it is ‘superfished’ as happens during fishing competitions. Has NSW Primary Industries done a proper scientific study of the impact of the annual fish kill at Evans Head on local stocks and their recovery? Probably not. It is certainly a question worth asking.
It is clear that Primary Industries (Fisheries) is concerned about overfishing. On display at present is a review of recreational fishing rules on which the public can comment until the end of July 2013.
The review includes recommendations about reduction in the total number of fish caught per day (bag limit) and restrictions on the number of each species caught. Bait fish are included. This is a good move by Fisheries as fish stocks decline but this review does not deal with the effects of intensive fishing competitions. Perhaps the Evans Head fish kill organisers need to look at restricting the competition to a weekend only rather than a week long in order to reduce the impact.
The Evans River is like Pitt Street Sydney with many boats out to make the winning catch.
At least some benefit from the fish kill, for example the local Pelicans, although some might question the impact of feast and famine on the bird’s ecology. A solid week of heavy feeding on fish frames and guts followed by 51 weeks of the usual diet has the potential to create a number of problems not to speak of the risk of getting an unintentionally-disguised fishhook in the mouth.
More satisfied customers:
However if Fisheries is already concerned about what is happening to fish stocks and has evidence showing decline why not impose some stringent rules on the current competition rather than wait until there is a problem and chances of recovery become slim as has happened with other fish populations.
There are other issues associated with the Annual fish kill including impact on local fishers and their livelihood, free access to water which is used not only to clean fish at ratepayer expense but wash the boats and trailers without regulation. VWD has witnessed on many occasions fresh water taps being left on for hours.
Time for an objective review of the Annual Fish Kill at Evans Head where the full impact is assessed from a longer term perspective. There’s no doubt economic benefit to some local businesses but at what cost in the long run?
The big question is – ‘is the Fishing Classic an ecologically sustainable activity and where is the evidence to support a claim that it is?’
And the little question: ‘Has ET found a home yet?! Definitely there on the final night.’