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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

Mullet fishers destroy dunes and native plants at Gawandii Beach, Shaws Bay

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Dune and plant destruction at Missingham Bridge end of beach. Photo supplied

Locals and Tuckombil Landcare have expressed concerns over damage to the dunes at Gawandii Beach at Shaws Bay by fisher people who are accessing the beach for the mullet harvesting season between April and July. 

‘They really made a mess of the dunes this year,’ Garry Stanger, spokesperson for Tuckombil Landcare told The Echo

Mr Stanger said he believed that previously the fishermen hadn’t brought their vehicles to the old Missingham Bridge end of the beach where they have been working for the last three years to regenerate the dunes. Rather they had parked their vehicles and boats in the car park and brought them down to the beach at that other end of Gawandii Beach.  

Tuckombil Landcare working on Gawandii Beach dunes. Photo supplied

Each weekend, for the last three years, up to a dozen members of the Tuckombil Landcare have been working on the dunes at the old Missingham Bridge end of the beach removing weeds including coral trees to encourage the growth of native species and rehabilitate the dunes. 

‘There are over 350 banksias that have self-seeded in the dunes with our care of removing the weeds. There are also pandanas palms, some naive figs and little lillies. There are a whole range of native plants that have started growing there because we’ve got rid of the weeds. I’d say there are over 400 trees along there. It is disappointing that we’ve given up our time voluntarily and then the fisherman just come in and drive over the dunes without a thought, creating significant damage. It is sad to see all this work being driven over.’

Dune and grass area destruction at Gawandii Beach. Photo supplied

Local Richard White has also written to The Echo expressing his concern over the damage to Gawandii Beach.

‘Again, they have left their mark, at both ends this time,’ he said in his letter about the mullet fishers.

‘The lovely shaded, grassy end, used by families for picnicking, is now even more scarred as they have decided to utilise it for parking their extra boats as well as accessing the beach to park more boats.

‘The other end, near the old Missingham Bridge, where a local Landcare group has been weeding and allowing flora regeneration, has been carved up by these fisherman, who are too lazy to walk 200 metres down the beach and must use their cars to exit through the fragile dunes.’

Dune and plant destruction at Missingham Bridge end of beach. Photo supplied

State government licence

Luke Marshall, Acting Manager – Open Spaces for Ballina Shire Council (BSC) told The Echo that the fishing activity is carried out ‘under a commercial fishing licence and authorised by the NSW state government with additional management through Council’s Commercial Activities on Public Land Policy.’

‘The activity has been carried out at the beach, using the same access for many years,’ he explained. 

Call for restoration

Mr White has called on those with the licence holders and BSC to ensure that the sites are restored saying that previously they have not made any attempt to restore the damage they create each year. 

‘At the car park end, severe erosion around native trees creates trip hazards and their pathway destroys the grass to the beach,’ said Mr White.

‘If they are to be allowed to access the beach, please minimise their footprint, stop them destroying the dunes at the other end and at least make them do, or pay for the restoration of the residents’ parkland.’

Ballina Shire Council has said that the licence holders will repair the damage they have caused. 

‘The operators repair any damage associated with their activities at the end of the licenced period. Council will continue to monitor the activity at the site and ensure that required repairs are completed following the conclusion of the mullet fishing season,’ said Mr Marshall.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Easily seen the mullet catchers don’t care how much damage they do, and the assurances to reinstate the dunes and other areas are empty promises .
    Unbelievable anyone is so lazy they can’t walk a couple of hundred metres instead of creating this devastation.

  2. Maybe the locals and landcare have a better method of netting mullet, with their years of experience fishing, they must be so experienced to make comment and suggest the fishermen were negligent in their recent activity. May I ask whom pays for and maintains the area in question?. When was the first time the locals got involved?. The fishermen have as much title to make a living as any other person or group whom claim the environmental high ground and take advantage of every minor situation to push their unearned claim to title of this area. The alleged damage will not be noticed after a short period of time. My support go’s overwhelmingly for the fishermen, they have a genuine historical claim to continue their annual tradition.

  3. Of course most fishermen care, like most people. Emotive statements are not helpful.

    I’m sure there’s a diplomatic way to address this with communication rather than such reporting.

    Was it communicated to the fishermen prior that their access path (they have been using for decades) was going to be replanted by well meaning locals?

    Most people love the place and fish as well.

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