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Performance of Queensland’s net-free zones

Martin, T., Wild, S., Webley, J. and Staunton-Smith, J. (2019) Performance of Queensland’s net-free zones. Technical Report. State of Queensland.



On 1 November 2015, three net-free zones (NFZs) were established in the Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton regions. The objective of the NFZs is for recreational fishers to catch more and bigger fish, which will increase their enjoyment of recreational fishing in the region. If this occurs, fishers are likely to travel from further afield to fish NFZs, thereby supporting local businesses and tourism.
To examine the impact of the NFZs on recreational fishing, surveys were undertaken at local boat ramps and tackle shops from 2015–18.

These surveys examined:

• if fishing effort has increased
• whether important recreational fish species were larger and more commonly caught
• if fishers travelled further to fish the NFZs
• if recreational fishers’ satisfaction and expectations of fishing in NFZs have changed through time.

The results of these surveys were compared to a combined set of reference areas (other areas in Queensland where NFZs were not introduced in November 2015) to assess the impacts of the NFZs relative to other trends in recreational fishing through time.

The full benefits of NFZs on the number and size of fish caught by recreational fishers are likely to take time to emerge, however recreational fishers are now harvesting larger barred javelin in the Rockhampton NFZ compared to the reference areas, which have not changed. In 2016 and 2017 Barramundi kept by recreational fishers in the Rockhampton NFZ were also larger than the reference areas. The size or number of fish caught by recreational fishers has not increased in the Mackay or Cairns NFZs.

More fishers are travelling further to fish the Rockhampton NFZ since it was created in November 2015. This is likely due to the high levels of community engagement and awareness in Rockhampton, with the council and local groups supporting and promoting the NFZ. The number of trailers counted at the boat ramps has remained steady at all NFZs and reference areas since the NFZs were implemented.

Recreational fishers’ satisfaction with fishing in the NFZs is generally positive and appears to be increasing. Overall, fishing satisfaction over the previous 12 months was greater in 2018 than in 2015 or 2016. In Cairns and Rockhampton, satisfaction was similar between years, but in Mackay satisfaction was significantly greater in 2016 and 2018 than 2015.

In 2018, recreational fishers in the NFZs were more satisfied with the following activities compared to 2015 and 2016: more exciting fights with fish; the number and size of fish caught; the quality of fishing in the area. Expectations varied depending on the NFZ and frequency of fishing. Interestingly, while catching a fish is important to recreational fishers, many people stated that it is not necessary for a satisfying fishing trip.

Generally, the effects of NFZs have been positive for recreational fishing. The predicted flow-on benefits of NFZs (e.g. tourism) requires that fishers are satisfied with their fishing trips, which depends largely on them catching more targeted species. As NFZs age, they might produce stronger effects on recreational fishing catches, but these effects will vary between regions due to the area covered by the NFZ, environmental factors such as floods and drought, and the reproductive and migratory capabilities of the targeted fish and their prey. Monitoring the performance of NFZs will continue as part of Fisheries Queensland’s Fisheries Monitoring program.

Item Type:Monograph (Technical Report)
Business groups:Fisheries Queensland
Keywords:DAF Fishery monitoring
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery conservation
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery management. Fishery policy
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Methods and gear. Catching of fish
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Recreational Fishing (Angling etc)
Live Archive:03 Jan 2019 04:37
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:44

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