The Estuary General Fishery is a diverse multi-species multi-method fishery that may operate in 76 of the NSW's estuarine systems. It is the most diverse commercial fishery in NSW and comprises approximately 600 fishing businesses authorised to utilise 17 types of fishing gear. This fishery is a significant contributor to regional and state economies providing high quality seafood and bait to the community.
The Fishery includes all forms of commercial estuarine fishing (other than estuary prawn trawling which comprises the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery) in addition to the gathering of pipis and beachworms from ocean beaches. The most frequently used fishing methods are mesh and haul netting. Other methods used include trapping, hand-lining and hand-gathering.
On average, the 10 species that make up over 80% of landings by weight are sea mullet (Mugil cephalus) 40%, luderick (Girella tricuspidata) 8%, yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis) 8%, school prawn (Metapenaeus macleayi) 5%, blue swimmer crab (Portunus pelagicus) 4%, dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) 4%, sand whiting (Sillago ciliata) 3%, pipi (Donax deltoides) 3%, mud crab (Scylla serrata) 3% and silver biddy (Gerres subfasciatus) 2%.
A comprehensive Fishery Management Strategy was prepared for the Estuary General Fishery and approved by the Minister for Primary Industries in February 2003. The Strategy includes a description of the fishery and the management arrangements that applied at that time. Before the Strategy was finalised, a draft strategy was subject to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment process, including extensive stakeholder and public consultation, under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Subsequently an Environmental Impact Statement was prepared detailing the assessment of the environmental impacts of the management rules and risk mitigation measures.
The Estuary General Fishery is a share management fishery and is divided geographically into seven regions from the Far North Coast to the Far South Coast of NSW (refer to the Estuary General Zoning Map for details). The primary management controls used to assist in the long term sustainability of the fishery include a limit on the number of fishers authorised to operate in the fishery, temporal and spatial closures, gear restrictions (i.e. mesh sizes and net lengths) and minimum size limits.
There are 63 classes of share available in the fishery (hence 63 types of endorsement), comprised of 9 classes of share for each of the 7 regions. The classes of share correspond to the type of endorsement available in the fishery and the region in which that endorsement holder may take fish. Specifically, licensed commercial fishers must hold sufficient shares to be eligible for an endorsement, and each endorsement authorises the use of specific gear to take permitted species from certain waters.
A general description of each Estuary General Fishery endorsement that is available in each of the 7 fishery regions is listed below. Detailed provisions governing the operation on the fishery are in the Fisheries Management (Estuary General Share Management Plan) Regulation 2006, Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38, the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2010 and Fisheries Management (Supporting Plan) Regulation 2006.
A handline and hauling crew endorsement authorises the holder to take fish using a handline or by assisting another commercial fisher who holds a category one or two hauling endorsement.
A meshing endorsement authorises the holder to take fish from estuarine waters using any of the following nets:
(a) meshing net,
(b) flathead net.
A prawning endorsement authorises the holder to take prawns from estuarine waters using any of the following nets:
(a) prawn net (hauling),
(b) prawn net (set pocket),
(c) prawn running net,
(d) seine net (prawns),
(e) hand-hauled prawn net,
(f) push or scissors net (prawns),
(g) dip or scoop net (prawns).
A trapping endorsement authorises the holder to take fish (other than eels and mud crabs) from estuarine waters using any of the following nets and traps:
(a) fish trap,
(b) hoop or lift net.
An eel trapping endorsement authorises the holder to use an eel trap to take eels from estuarine waters.
A mud crab trapping endorsement authorises the holder to use a crab trap or a hoop or lift net (or both) to take mud crabs.
A hand gathering endorsement authorises the holder to take beachworm, pipi, cockle, cuttlefish, mussel and nippers from estuarine waters and ocean beaches by the method of hand picking.
A category one hauling endorsement authorises the holder to take fish from estuarine waters using any of the following nets:
(a) hauling net (general purpose),
(b) trumpeter whiting net (hauling),
(c) pilchard, anchovy and bait net (hauling),
(d) garfish net (hauling),
(e) garfish net (bullringing),
(f) bait net.
A category two hauling endorsement authorises the holder to take fish from specified estuarine waters within a specified region using any of the following nets:
(a) garfish net (hauling),
(b) garfish net (bullringing),
(c) bait net.
For further information on the Estuary General Fishery telephone (02) 6691 9685.