What a waste
By SALLY GORDON
A SCHOOL of one of the Clarence River's most sought-after fish became trapped and was left to die and rot for days in shark netting at Iluka Bay.
Around 15 mulloway, each between 10 to 20 kilograms in weight, became tangled in the 100-metre long net in the bay near the Iluka Riverside Tourist Park.
Iluka anglers are angry and question the value of the mesh protection net.
A Clarence Valley Council spokesman said netting of fish was an isolated incident. The net would stay for the protection of swimmers.
"Even from the people who rang up and complained about the situation, there's been no suggestion that we pull that netting out," council co-ordinator of environmental services Rodney Wright said.
"I estimate there's probably about 50 to 100 people there per day through the summer, so it's a high-use area.
"Council is committed to providing protection for swimmers."
The net has been in place since 1975 and provides Iluka's only protected estuary swimming area.
Recreational fisherman Tye Porter said the fish deaths were unacceptable and avoidable.
"Just about every angler dreams of catching jewfish (mulloway)," Mr Porter said.
Mr Porter writes for a Queensland fishing magazine and said hundreds of anglers visited the Clarence specifically to go mulloway fishing.
"Because of my articles on jewfish in the Clarence River three gentlemen came to Iluka last week. They spent about $2000 for the week just to catch one and they went home empty-handed.
"But what they didn't know was, 200 metres away from where they were fishing, the shark net had killed about 17 of them."
Mr Porter believes the school of mulloway became stuck while chasing mullet.
A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industry Fisheries said the incident arose from a public protection program run by the council.
Doctor Danny Bucher, lecturer in marine and fisheries biology at Southern Cross University, said that until authorities were convinced that an effective alternative to shark nets was in place, they would remain.
He said when it came to shark nets many councils operated in fear of being sued should a shark attack happen.
"My personal opinion is that I'd like to see shark nets removed. I'd like to see things like the electro-magnetic field devices tested," he said.