|The Richmond River has been re-opened to fishing after scientists gave it the 'green light' after a series of surveys, Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said on the 27th February.
Minister Macdonald said the river was closed to fishing after the January floods and the accompanying massive fish kill.
'This re-opening is great news for Richmond River fishers and everyone who lives along the river, particularly in the town of Ballina, which was hit hard by January’s floods and the fish kill,' Mr Macdonald said.
'Fish stocks have recovered - and the fishers and others who rely on the river for their income and pleasure can return to their normal activities.'
Minister Macdonald said the re-opening followed two successful surveys of the Richmond River’s fish populations, one involving scientists and commercial fishers and one done solely by Government scientists.
'The first survey involved prawn hauling, gill netting, and crab and eel trapping throughout the river, including the Recreational Fishing Haven, with commercial fishers contracted to provide boats, sampling equipment and local expertise', Mr Macdonald said.
'Data collected during the survey showed that fish and crustacean stocks in the river channel upstream as far as Coraki have recovered to historically sustainable levels.
'The survey demonstrated that important species such as sea mullet, bream, dusky flathead, sand whiting and mud crabs are present throughout the river downstream of Coraki.'
Mr Macdonald said the second survey involved NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) researchers doing a fishery-independent sampling survey of the river using specially-designed research nets.
'NSW DPI, in partnership with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the University of Sydney, have spent a number of years developing scientific sampling tools for the assessment and management of estuarine fish in NSW,' Mr Macdonald said.
'Having these tools available for the current surveys of the recovering Richmond River proved invaluable in my decision to re-open the river.'
Mr Macdonald said the analysis of data collected during this survey found no significant differences in the abundance and diversity of fish and invertebrates among the various sections of the river and in various depths.
'Comparisons of data from sampling done in other estuaries of NSW indicated that the abundance and diversity of fish and invertebrates in the Richmond River is now similar to other estuaries,' he said.
Mr Macdonald said the closure introduced on January 18 was the best option to protect fish displaced by major flooding and to enable fish stocks to rejuvenate following the fish kills, which were devastating for those that relied on the river for their income.
The Iemma Government came to the aid of Richmond River fishers, with a recovery package of $130,000 to help the local industry.
'It has, however, always been in the fishers’ best interests to reopen the river so they can get back to their normal activities,' Minister Macdonald said.
Mr Macdonald said the closure would only remain on the ocean waters adjacent to the Richmond River to allow the large number of juvenile fish displaced by the flood to re-enter the river.
'I commend the cooperative and consultative approach taken between fishers and my Department during this difficult time,' Mr Macdonald said.
Mr Garry Joblin, Chairman of the Ballina Fishermen’s Co-op, said he was very impressed with Minister Macdonald’s response to the concerns of local fishers and the assistance provided.
'The fishers were pleased with the cooperation of the DPI Fisheries Scientists and the excellent survey and sampling work they have done,' Mr Joblin said.
by NSW DPI - Fishing and aquaculture
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4:53 AM Tue 4 Mar 2008 GMT
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