Wetlands Australia Journal, Vol 21, No 2 (2004)

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An overview of commercial fishing in Lake Illawarra: trends in reported catch and effort, bycatch and discarding

Charles A Gray


NSW estuaries have supported valuable commercial fisheries since the early 1800’s. The NSW estuarine commercial fishery is the most complex multi-method and multi-species fishery in NSW, producing in 2001/02 approximately 3900 t of finfish and 890 t of invertebrates, valued at over $18 million. The commercial fishery in Lake Illawarra is relatively productive and important to the total estuarine commercial catch in NSW. Between 1997/98 and 2001/02, the average reported commercial catch of finfish, prawns and blue swimmer crab was 120 t, 17 t, 12 t, respectively, which was 2.9%, 2.0% and 6.5% respectively, of the total estuarine catch in NSW. The finfish catch was dominated by sea mullet (47%) and luderick (10%), which is typical of the NSW estuarine fishery in general, and dusky flathead, silver biddy, bream and river garfish also contributed > 5 t each per annum. Most finfish were caught in gillnets (75% of catch), whereas most prawns were caught in running nets (76% of catch). Bycatch and discarding in gillnets and prawning gears in Lake Illawarra was similar to other estuaries in NSW. Current research to improve the selectivities of prawn gears and changes in regulations concerning gillnets should reduce bycatch and discarding in some gear types.

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