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Sydney Pictures: Sydney Harbour Report, Christmas 2013, by Craig McGill

Sydney Harbour Report, Christmas 2013, by Craig McGill

As from 1st sept 13 Fisheries have been enforcing a 30 year old ban , that had previously gone unpoliced, on the taking of squid and cuttlefish from the North harbour marine reserve. A ‘special supplement' to the ‘marine reserves act' was gazetted in august to clarify some ambiguities to the original wording that otherwise made the rules, in relation to squid, hard to enforce. The reserve where the squid ban occurs encompasses about one third of all the lower harbours available squid grounds. So we can now expect a considerable increase in pressure on the remaining grounds. I think whoever is behind this current push has failed to recognize how crowded the harbour can get and how much extra stress this will place on the whole boating fraternity - fishermen and ice cream lickers alike - for no perceivable gain.

Why Fisheries has suddenly , in 2013 , decided to rigorously enforce the squid ban of 1982 is a bit of a mystery but my guess is that it is either pressure from green or other user groups , or simply a fisheries officer with insufficient ‘on water' harbour experience , going out on a limb. Either way it has opened a can of worms and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the often overcrowded user group dynamic. Some within the department claim that it has always been the intent of the reserve to disallow fishing for squid. Others, particularly the biologists, disagree. When the reserve was first proposed by local council in 82 the intent was to ban all fishing of any type altogether. Fisheries were not happy with that and negotiated to allow for ‘fishing for finfish' only. To bid for the fishing of ‘finfish only' does not mean that the ‘intention' was to disallow for squid fishing. It was simply a compromise to allow for ‘some' fishing as opposed to ‘no' fishing. To further enhance my claim that it was never the intent to stop squid fishing and that it has never been enforced, one could well ask why it has taken fisheries 30 years to realize that the wording of the act was insufficient to adequately support enforcement.

To put a historical perspective take a trip in the Tardis back to the early 80s. Squid was one dollar a kg, but even at that price, most ‘aussies' wouldn't even feed it to their cat. Apart from a totally inefficient luminous bead with some prongs on one end that sank like a snapper lead, squid jigs were unknown. But it didn't matter anyway because no one, apart from one or two "‘crazy Greeks", wanted anything to do with squid either for bait or the table. From a recreational, commercial or culinary perspective, squid were irrelevant. Despite there being virtually no interest in squid among Fisheries management during this period they were, at least, aware that squid were characterised by rapid growth, short life spans, early maturity and rapid population turnover. The biomass of squids in the world's oceans greatly exceeds the biomass of all humans on the earth. In other words they are immensely abundant, breed like rabbits (in fact much faster) and even without any fishing pressure from either recreational or commercial sectors , the entire squid population replaces itself every 12 months or so. They are one of the most sustainable species on the planet. Given all this, it would be naive for anyone to suggest that one of the original intentions of the marine reserve, during this period, was to protect squid.

It has also been suggested to me, from within Fisheries, that this current drive could be linked to the harbour's penguin population
Fairy penguins or ‘little' penguins, as they are correctly known, prefer to eat fish such as pilchards, anchovies, warehou, red cod and barracouta. They will also eat a very small quantity of squid if the opportunity arises. But how often does ‘the opportunity" arise?

Southern Calamari spawn throughout the year, peaking in the warmer waters of spring and summer. Newly-hatched individuals (less than 3cm) are commonly found near low relief, rocky areas adjacent to seagrass beds and remain on these grounds until they are around 60 days old. Then they migrate offshore to the deeper waters. They remain in these habitats for 6-8 months. On reaching sexual maturity (larger than 15cm), they migrate back into the inshore waters where they form large aggregations, mate and attach their large iridescent white egg masses to algae, seagrass or rocky substrates in the shallow waters.' (Lifted from SA fisheries web site).

Although this study was conducted in South Australia there is no reason to think that this pattern would not be similar for all of the same species throughout their distribution. It would explain why we see lots of 3 cm squid in the harbour and then not a lot in between that size and the more mature squid that we favour for bait. Little Penguins do not eat squid at the sort of size that anglers take for bait. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if a penguin took on a mature southern calamari it would come off second best. Furthermore, according to the above excerpt, then the sort of juvenile squid that penguins would eat are not on the penguin's hunting grounds of seagrass and kelp, but instead off in deeper water.
In addition to this, there is no evidence to suggest that anglers are having any impact on the sustainability or recruitment of harbour squid. When I first started fishing for squid in the harbour in the early 80s there was literally a handful of us chasing them - myself, for bait and 2 or 3 Greeks, for the table. Now there are hundreds of anglers fishing for them and it's not unusual to see half a dozen anglers on every squid ground during the peak of the season. Despite the dramatically increased pressure over the last 30 years, squid are as abundant today as they were back then.
Harbour penguins are not declining as a result of food shortages and once again this just provides another distraction from the penguin's real enemy of dogs cats, foxes and urban encroachment -- done so at the huge inconvenience to thousands of anglers.

And the greatest irony of all this is that while you can't take a squid from the reserve -- one of the world's most abundant and fecund creatures , you can take and kill a blue groper --old lived , slow growing , late maturing and low reproduction. This anomaly would leave even the most rabid greenie scratching their head.
Finally you also need to be aware that you could technically be fined for having a rigged squid rod within the reserve. So if you are squidding at Middle Head for example (which is not in the reserve) and want to run across to Manly jetty to get a Big Mac then you will need to un-rig your squid kit or risk being fined. To make matters even more nuts, you can legally have live or dead squid in your possession within the reserve - but not a squid jig???
We need a quick review on this situation.


Stuart Reid's 50lb Pending World Record PNG Black Bass

Pending World Record Black Bass

Papuan Black Bass are renowned the world over as the toughest pound for pound freshwater fish in the world, and the place to find the biggest Black Bass is PNG's Gulf province. The current all tackle world record Black Bass of 46lbs, and the fish pictured (caught on 19/6/14, by Stuart Reid, Fishabout) which is the pending world record at 50lbs, were both caught from these rivers.

Once you feel the strike you know that no freshwater fish can come close to the power. Watching 100kg guys get knocked over on the strike, reels give way, rods break in half and 130LB pound braid snap from the pound for pound strongest fighting fresh water fish is a sight to behold. If would like to experience the thrill of targeting PNG Black Bass and Barramundi in remote areas with very low fishing pressure contact us now. *2017-18 spots selling now* ... read more

Kadavu Island - Great Astrolabe Reef

Fiji Macky

The pristine Fiji Islands are home to the South Pacific's finest sport and game fish, including massive GT's, monster dogtooth tuna, yellowfin tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo, spanish mackerel, black marlin, blue marlin and plenty of reef fish. Many of these species are endemic to the Great Astrolabe Reef (one of the largest barrier reefs in the world), which is the reef that encompasses Kadavu Island, Fiji.Fishabout now offer 6 and 8 day fishing packages to explore this marine wonder of the world, which include 3 and 5 days fishing respectively. For more information call us on (02)8922 2651 or click here

Endyalgout Remote Fishing Camp

Sunset at Endyalgout

Fishabout is pleased to now offer remote fishing trips to Endyalgout Island, one of the best fishing locations in Australia. (Nestled on the south east of the Coburg Penninsula).

Situated on a shell grit beach under shady trees, are several permanent tropical friendly safari style tents, raised on wooden platforms.

Looking out past the resident Crocodile you can see miles and miles of enticing mangroves, barely touched creeks, rivers, rock bars and channels, all calling your name.

From monster Baramundi up to 130cm, to big Black Jewfish, Threadfin Salmon, various Trevallies, and some of the biggest Golden Snaper to be found anywhere, Endyalgout Island is truly a dream to fish.

Pricing ranges from $4350 (4 days, 3 anglers per boat) to $6910 (7 days, 2 anglers per boat)

For more information please call us on (02) 8922 2651 or click here