The NSW Fisheries department is charged with the sustainable management of fisheries activities that take place in NSW. The Fisheries Management Act gives certain powers to the NSW Fisheries Officers and they apply the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation. The Regulations are reviewed on a regular basis with input from stakeholders such as recreational and commercial fishers; as well as conservation groups.
A word of caution: If you break the recreational fishing rules and are charged, it does not matter if you did not know you were breaking the rules. Ignorance is not a valid legal defence.
Understanding the rules
What is a “fish”?
For the purposes of legislation and regulations dealing with fishing activities the term fish means:
- Sharks and rays
- Bony fishes such as bream and morwong
- Cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish
- Crustaceans such as crabs and lobster
- Oysters and other molluscs
- Echinoderms such as sea urchins
- Beachworms and other polychaetes
And the definition applies regardless whether the animal is dead or alive, or has been cut into pieces.
What is meant by “take or attempt to take”?
The “taking” of fish (see above list for what a ‘fish” is), is the act of catching and killing a fish, gathering or collecting fish, or removing fish from a rock or other attachment point. “Attempting to take” means you were trying to take a fish. In legal terms, it doesn’t matter if you were successful at killing a protected species, if you had the intent to do so; you are guilty of an offense.
What is the difference between the terms bag limit and possession limit?
The term “bag limit” refers to the amount you are allowed to catch on a given day, “possession limit” refers to the TOTAL amount you are allowed to have in your possession, say in your catch bag at the boat ramp, and at home in your freezer. A good example is Luderick, where the daily bag limit is 10 (as at November 2014), but the possession limit is 20.
What if I have accidentally done the wrong thing?
If you’re lucky and the NSW Fisheries official is in a very forgiving mood, you may get off with a warning. However that should be considered the height of good fortune and if you are in possession of a protected species, under size fish or are over the possession limit, a fine is the very least you can expect. Penalties can include time in goal.
What is considered poaching?
As recreational fishers, Spearfishers cannot sell their catch. “Selling” is defined as taking fish to sell, swap, barter or otherwise gain a benefit, or attempting to do so. It is illegal. End of story.
An example might be where you catch a good bag of bream and offer them to your local takeaway in exchange for other food. That is illegal.
What about spearing fish for family and friends?
That is ok. But remember, many species of reef fish are long-lived and territorial. No one intends to deplete local populations of a particular fish species, but overfishing can and does have local impacts.
Know where you can and can’t spearfish
To begin with, currently all freshwater creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, impoundments and dams are closed to spearfishing. The ‘Freshwater’ begins at the tidal limit of rivers that empty into the sea.
Are the any areas where I can’t spearfish but where other forms of fishing are allowed?
Yes, other than the above freshwater areas, see the link below for a comprehensive list.
In the listed areas all forms of taking fish with spear is prohibited. Some of the closures are historic, other’s are to prevent divers interacting with boats, whilst some were simply the result of politics.