Escaped Kingfish and swarm of fishers force closure at port Stephens

LOOSE: Escaped Kingfish, much like the one caught by Matt Hansen and Paul Mullen, have been causing boating mayhem. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
LOOSE: Escaped Kingfish, much like the one caught by Matt Hansen and Paul Mullen, have been causing boating mayhem. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

Twenty-thousand farmed Kingfish that escaped storm-damaged aquaculture pens off Port Stephens in recent weeks have caused boating chaos that has forced NSW DPI Fisheries to enforce closures, as fishers flock to get a piece of the action.

NSW DPI has now advised commercial and recreational fishers that a temporary fishing closure in waters bound by the Marine Aquaculture Research Lease at Providence Bay in Port Stephens has been extended.

DPI’s Deputy Director General Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan, said the closure, under Section 8 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994, will now be in place up to and including Wednesday, 28 February 2018.

“The closure was initially put in place due to the volume of boating traffic leading up to the long weekend, which created hazardous conditions within the research lease and hampered repair and fish recapture efforts,” Dr Allan said.

“Recovery efforts are still underway and an extension to the closure will allow these works to be completed safely.  Despite advice, some fishers have been navigating too close to the mooring system and sea pen infrastructure, especially with divers in the water.”

The Huon Aquaculture trial, in partnership with DPI, aims to assess the viability and sustainability of Yellowtail Kingfish in sea pens. One of the stated objectives was; investigating the structural integrity and sustainability of current sea cage infrastructure and their suitability in the high energy environment of NSW waters.  Investigations into the damage have now been completed and an incident report has been provided to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy.

A summary of the findings will be made publicly available this week and the recommendations arising from the incident review will be integral in amending current management practices.

To date more than 5,000 farmed Yellowtail Kingfish have already been recovered by Huon Aquaculture. A temporary fishing closure for commercial and recreational fishers, under Section 8 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994, has been extended up to and including Wednesday, 28 February 2018 in waters bound by the Marine Aquaculture Research Lease at Providence Bay in Port Stephens.

Fishers are reminded it is an offence to breach a Fishing Closure or interfere or damage lease infrastructure. The maximum penalty in the case of an individual is $22,000 or imprisonment for 6 months (or both) for a first offence and double these penalties for a second or subsequent offence.

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