16 July 2020

Fishers urged to swap death traps for free wildlife-friendly nets

| Ian Bushnell
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Enclosed ‘opera house’ nets are deadly to native wildlife, including platypus, which can drown in three minutes. Photo: Supplied.

Nearly a year after banning the use of deadly ‘opera house’ traps in all ACT waterways and dams, the ACT Government is rolling out its promised Yabby Net Swap Program to encourage fishers to take up new free wildlife-friendly nets.

Yabby fishers in the ACT can now swap their destructive ‘opera house’ nets for the wildlife-friendly nets at participating tackle stores under the government-funded program.

Last September, enclosed yabby nets were banned in all ACT waterways, including private waters and dams, after amendments to the Fisheries Act 2000 passed in the Legislative Assembly.

The amendments also increased the penalty for using the banned trap to $16,000.

The traps, which target yabbies, are known to inadvertently catch and drown platypuses, turtles, native water rats, birds, Murray River crayfish and other native wildlife. Air-breathing animals can easily become trapped in the nets when looking for food. Once trapped, they have less than three minutes to escape before drowning.

Last year, four platypuses were found dead inside the opera house traps near Braidwood.

The traps have also been banned in Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria and in parts of NSW, but the nets are still allowed to be sold online and in-store.

'Opera house' net

An ‘opera house’ net. The government hopes fishers will use the free wildlife-friendly nets available under its new program. Photo: File.

Last year, in response to calls that sale of the nets also be banned, Minister for the Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman said a national approach was the most effective way of removing the threat to platypus and other native animals.

He then wrote to all ministers seeking a stronger national approach to ban the use, and potentially the sale, of enclosed yabby traps across Australia.

In November 2019, Australia’s Environment Ministers agreed to the formation of a working group to discuss cross-jurisdictional action on opera house-style yabby traps.

As part of the ACT law changes, retailers were required to display signs at point-of-sale to inform potential buyers that their use is banned in all ACT waters.

Mr Gentleman wrote to retailers urging them to stop selling these nets, and some stores decided to stop stocking them.

Earlier this week, Mr Gentleman said that the Yabby Net Swap Program, based on a similar program in Victoria, would give local fishers a chance to swap their harmful old traps for new open-top nets which catch just as many yabbies without harming native wildlife.

Tackle World Canberra Manager Antony Pezzella said he was happy to be part of the ACT Government’s program.

“We’re really glad we can help out with the Yabby Net Swap Program and help our customers protect the ACT’s native wildlife while continuing to enjoy fishing for yabbies,” Mr Pezzella said.

The pyramid-style wildlife-friendly net. Photo: Victorian Government.

Victoria’s swap program resulted in 20,000 nets being swapped between December 2018 and February 2019.

The ACT Government investigates all credible reports of illegal fishing activity. The public is asked to immediately report any enclosed yabby traps found in lakes and rivers in the ACT and Upper Murrumbidgee region.

Reports can be made by calling Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or the Access Canberra Contact Centre 13 22 81. Please be prepared to provide exact location details (GPS coordinates are ideal), a description of the trap and your contact details in case further information is required.

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Capital Retro8:49 pm 18 Jul 20

Yabby fishers? I thing yabby catchers is the terminology because yabbies are not fish.

Perhaps the ACT Government would have more control of banned activities like this if anglers and yabby catchers were licensed as is the case everywhere else.

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