ACT Environment Minister Mick Gentleman is calling on federal and state environment ministers to help him abolish the sale of “cruel” yabby traps as the ACT Government toughens the use of the traps in the Territory.
Enclosed yabby nets, including ‘opera house’ style trap, are now banned in all waterways in the nation’s capital, including private waters and dams, after amendments to the Fisheries Act 2000 passed in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.
The amendments have 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.
Earlier this year, four platypuses were found dead inside the opera house traps near Braidwood.
The traps have been banned in Tasmania, Western Australia. Victoria and in parts of NSW. Despite the ban from waterways across the different states and territories, the nets are still allowed to be sold online and in-store.
Mr Gentlemen has written to his state and territory colleagues encouraging them to follow the ACT’s lead and outlaw the use of the “cruel and unnecessary traps”. He’s also asking ministers to work together to ban the sale of opera house traps right across the nation.
“While some retailers have made the positive move to stop selling enclosed yabby traps of their own accord, some stakeholders have asked the ACT Government to consider banning the sale of enclosed yabby nets by all ACT retailers,” Mr Gentleman’s letter reads.
“I believe that all jurisdictions working together for a national approach is the most effective way of removing the threat to platypus and other native animals.
“I am writing to you to seek your support for a stronger national approach to ban the use, and potentially to ban the sale, of enclosed yabby traps across Australia.”
As part of the law changes, Mr Gentleman said retailers are now required to display signs at point-of-sale to inform potential buyers that their use is banned in all ACT waters.
To raise community awareness on the new law changes, Mr Gentleman said the government will roll out a ‘yabby trap swap program’ similar to the Victorian Government’s initiative to phase out the use of opera house traps.
Victoria’s swap program allowed the public to swap their opera house nets with wildlife-friendly open-top nets at tackle stores for free, with 20,000 nets swapped between December 2018 and February 2019.
The ACT Government investigates all credible reports of illegal fishing activity. The public are 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.