Fishermen campaign for buyback

FEARING the current situation is unsustainable, recreational fishermen calling for limitations on professional fishing in Lake Illawarra and Windang Beach have begun campaigning.

They've started a petition to the state government, calling for a buyback of commercial licences.

Petitioners request the use of the Recreational Fishing Fund to buy back existing commercial fishing licence/permits from Lake Illawarra and the adjoining coastal waters.

At the time of publication, they had almost 750 signatures.

Windang's Andrew Connor has been fishing in Lake Illawarra and Windang Beach for more than 25 years.

He said fish numbers had declined considerably recently.

Mr Connor said more emphasis should be placed on tourism dollars attracted by recreational fishing.

He said with commercial operators removed from the likes of St Georges Basin, the 36-square-kilometre Lake Illawarra should be afforded the same opportunity.

Mr Connor believed the lake was unable to sustain 34 professional fishing licences.

"There's probably 20 [licences] there which could be bought out," he said. "We're not about destruction of fisheries, but a fairer share of the fishing stocks that exist."

Long-time lake activist Peter Mair has previously proposed the extension of recreational fishing havens to other locations such as Lake Illawarra, as well as the buying out of professional licences. He said the situation had steadily deteriorated to the point where it rarely made sense to "wet a line" in either the lake, or on the beach or off the rocks.

"The government has previously bought out the rights to commercial fishing on comparable estuaries and many consider it is well beyond time that Lake Illawarra was added to the commercial-free list," he said.

"Extensive residential development is a major explanation for the demise of the lake fish stock and historic commercial operators deserve a fair price to be paid to stop."

Mr Jewell told Fairfax Media he did not have a quota or weight on his licence, but he and fellow operators used their judgment and didn't overfish because livelihoods were linked to fishing being sustainable. He said only about eight licences were regularly used on the lake.

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