Net-free Fitzroy nets barra benefits by the bucket load
TOURIST and barramundi numbers on the Fitzroy river are increasing "by leaps and bounds", according to the Council and State Government.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said satisfaction surveys carried out between 2015-18 show more recreational fishers are travelling to Central Queensland.
"We have people from Mackay to Melbourne and as far away as the UK coming here to enjoy the beautiful Fitzroy River and its recreational fishing opportunities," he said.
He predicted economic growth for Rockhampton small businesses, such as bait and tackle shops and tourist operators, as new barra-themed events and attractions roll out.
"We're developing a sustainable industry for our children and our grandchildren," said the Minister in thanking local stakeholders for collecting data and looking after the river.
"The fishing industry is not owned by one entity; recreational and commercial stakeholders have cooperated to provide sustainable fishing into the future."
He criticised the Coalition for being "soft" on river crime in giving black market fishers a "five day, get-out-of jail-free" card.
Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow said removing commercial nets from the river was a "bold move" which is paying dividends for the region.
"These survey results are a credit to local fishers who have followed the net-free code of conduct," she said.
"Events such as the Barra Bounty and this year's three-day Barra Bash show the gains in getting the community involved in the river's future."
Representatives from Jolly Roger Fishing Club, which conducts river clean-ups, and the Frenchville Sports Club were on hand to meet with the Minister.
"For 40,000 years, the local indigenous have believed the barramundi started here in the Fitzroy," said FSC Manager and Barra Bash organiser Damien Massingham.
"So Rockhampton is not just the barramundi capital of Australia but of the world."
Info Fish Australia's data shows the rate of catching legal-size barra has almost doubled since introducing net-free zones in November 2015.
Bill Sawynok said 20 per cent of threadfish were now measured at over a metre long which "almost unheard of" before commercial nets were removed.
"Giving people the opportunity to handle the fish then put them back into the system for others to enjoy means we're protecting the big breeders which can produce three million eggs per season," he said.
"The average barramundi now comes in at 66cm and threadfish at 85 cm."