'It stunk like road kill': Man's tragic find after pulling in 'illegal' trap from river

WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: A young man was searching for new fishing spots with his partner when they made a “shocking find” in the water.

Queanbeyan man Daniel Campbell, 27, was exploring bushland near Farringdon, 200km south of Wollongong, when he saw a length of rope in the Shoalhaven River.

Mr Campbell waded into a deep part of the river and pulled a submerged net from the bottom of the river.

A river runs trough a field of long grass and trees without leaves.
Daniel Campbell was walking along the river when he noticed something disturbing. Source: Daniel Campbell

“The moment I pulled the net out of the water, you could just smell it,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“It just stunk like road kill to be honest.

“That’s basically when I knew we had found something.”

The first thing Mr Campbell found inside the net was a dead platypus, but there was worse to come.

“I didn’t exactly want my partner to see it when I realised what was in the net,” he said.

“We didn’t know the extent of the find until we got it back on to the bank and cut it open.”

An opera house net and four dead platypus lie on the riverbank of Shoalhaven River.
Dead platypuses pulled from the river by Daniel Campbell. Source: Daniel Campbell

When he poured the contents out onto shore he discovered there were in fact four dead platypus inside.

“It was a pretty shocking find,” he said.

Mr Campbell estimates the illegally placed opera house net couldn’t have been in the river for more than three weeks as the bait was still fresh.

Geoff Williams, from Australian Platypus Conservancy, told Yahoo News Australia platypuses do not occur in great numbers, so the deaths of four in one area was significant.

Continued use of platypus killing nets in NSW rivers

While Victoria banned the traps in July, New South Wales law permits their use in certain areas, but generally excludes them from waters east of the Newell Highway.

When used in rivers where platypuses, water rats and turtles live, opera house nets trap the creatures underwater, drowning them.

Mr Williams said New South Wales was making headway on a ban before the last election, but there had not been any recent advancements.

A phone screenshot of a map shows the place where the platypus was found. Next to it is a Google Maps photo showing Shoalhaven River.
Placing opera house nets east of the Newell Highway is illegal in New South Wales. Source: Daniel Campbell / Google Maps

The NSW Department of Primary Industries told Yahoo News Australia “rules are in place to regulate the responsible and sustainable use of this equipment”.

“All yabby traps, where use is permitted, are required to have a bycatch reduction device with a maximum diameter of 90mm (fixed ring) fitted to all entrance funnels,” the department said in a statement.

“The intent of the general yabby trap closure and the bycatch reduction device is to prevent the death of platypus and minimise the capture of air-breathing animals such as turtles and water rats.”

Mr Williams said the problem with allowing the sale of opera house nets in NSW was that people did not follow the rules.

“The regulations are fine in theory but they just don’t work,” he said.

“Everybody knows that... and that’s the basis for Victoria changing the law.

“If the rules worked you wouldn’t have four dead platypus it’s as simple as that really.”

The NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall did not respond to calls from Yahoo News Australia before publication of this story.

Rules relating to freshwater and saltwater fishing in NSW, including the use of yabby traps, are available on the FishSmart app and via www.dpi.nsw.gov.au.

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