A fisherman has been charged for using wire fish traps to illegally catch over two dozen Murray Crayfish, with fishing activity responsible in part to the species now being listed as threatened.
The fish were caught in the Murray River in NSW last July, with 13 of them reportedly being "of a prohibited sized" and nine of them carrying eggs, highlighting all too easily how one illegal fishing act can pose devastating impacts on a species population.
Upon seizure, fisheries officers managed to release the Murray Crayfish back into the water.
The fisherman from Howlong, a town on the NSW and Victorian border, pleaded guilty to all charges and has been fined $9714 for his unlawful act, with authorities hopeful the fine will prevent the behaviour in the future.
"This serves as a strong deterrent to those wishing to engage in illegal fishing activity that you will be brought before the courts for your actions," NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries said.
Why is the use of wire fishing traps illegal for catching Murray Crayfish?
Murray Crayfish are a native species in the Murray River and are the world's second largest freshwater crayfish, growing to three kilograms in weight.
The species have suffered major declines since European settlement and are now considered rare in areas of the river where they were once widespread, according to NSW DPI Fisheries.
While recreational fishing is not pinned as one of the primary causes for reduction of the species, it has contributed and strict fishing regulations are crucial for slowing down the decline and aiding recovery. It is an offence to catch Murray Crayfish using any form of trap, with the only legal methods being via a loop or listing net, with only specified dimensions being permitted for fishing.
Murray Crayfish can only be taken during the months of June, July and August and any fisherman that catches one with eggs are legally obligated to release the fish immediately back into the water with minimal interference.
Quick crayfish facts
There are over 100 species of crayfish in Australia
Murray Crayfish are the second largest crayfish in the world
Murray Crayfish don't grow continuously but rather in stages during each moult
What factors are threatening Murray Crayfish?
A range of environmental factors have impacted their distribution, including black water flooding events, change in land use practices and agricultural pesticides.
Conservation stocking programs have been implemented over the last several years to boost the number of Murray Crayfish found in the river.
“We started this conservation program last year to safeguard the long-term future of the iconic Murray Crayfish in the Murray River,” NSW DPI Senior Fisheries Manager for Threatened Species Dr Trevor Daly said in 2018.
Murray Crayfish are listed as threatened in NSW, ACT and Victoria, and are totally protected in South Australia.
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