The killing of a large estuary cod earlier this year in Shaws Bay has prompted Ballina resident Jan Brady to call for the bay to be made into a fishing free zone.
Jan told Echonetdaily that some members of council and even some anglers were getting behind her petition to ban fishing in Shaws Bay.
This support comes as Ballina prepares to host a Fishers for Fish Habitat forum in June.
Estuary cod is a threatened species which are protected in NSW by the Fisheries Management Act 1994.
Even a popular anglers’ website, westernangler.com.au, admits ‘a lot of estuary cod are caught accidentally by anglers seeking mangrove jack and barramundi in creeks or emperor over inshore reefs’.
Jan, who has been canvassing around Ballina recently, said she received around 80 extra signatures for her petition on Friday morning despite bad weather.
This did not count the signatures on petitions still on the counters of shops around the area including Shaws Bay takeaway and East Ballina newsagency.
Jan believes not enough is being done to protect the species, saying the signage informing anglers in Shaws Bay about which fish are protected is ‘inadequate’.
Jan says Shaws Bay could be a breeding area for the estuary cod and other protected marine species.
‘I have seen (estuary cod) babies this year, which I have not seen previously,’ she said.
‘I have also seen elegant wrasse, which are also protected.’
But Jan says she has also seen crab-traps in use and spear-fishing taking place in Shaws Bay, both activities are illegal in the area.
Ballina council’s website states that ‘the seagrasses in [Shaws] bay are regarded as some of the best in northern NSW.’
But it also says that Ballina is no longer such a fishing economy town as it was in the past, with less than five per cent of the population listed as working in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sectors combined.
Ballina is still a hot tourist destination: this year the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport catered for more than 41,000 passengers and undoubtedly many come for the fishing.
Ms Brady hopes that tourists will choose not to fish in Shaws Bay, however, saying ‘there are plenty of other good places to fish in the area.’