Anglers can still wet a line — at a safe social distance — at Narooma and other spots in NSW. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
Among the many casualties of coronavirus has been clear and concise information on when — and where exactly — an angler can drop a line.
Victoria is currently Australia’s only state or territory that has banned recreational fishing, imposing on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652.
Western Australia is encouraging fishers to stay home.
Other states and territories say recreational fishing is allowed as long as people follow social distancing regulations.
However, each state and territory has interpreted the rules slightly differently and there are important details that need to be understood to fish legally.
In Victoria, a Government spokesperson said:
“People cannot participate in recreational activities like they normally would, such as fishing or boating.
“They need to stay home if not for their own health, but for the health of their loved ones and the wider community.
“If people do not follow the directions of the Chief Health Officer, Victoria Police can fine individuals $1,652 on the spot.”
A Victorian Police spokesperson said a warning letter left on a car windscreen at a boat ramp in Gippsland was a one-off incident. The letter, shared widely on social media, said fishing was not an essential activity and ignoring Stage 3 restrictions risked a $1,682 fine. The spokesperson said Victoria Police were not issuing warning letters.
New South Wales
In New South Wales, police say fishing is permitted, as long as people follow rules about social distancing and gatherings of two or more people.
Asked about fishing on Thursday morning, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said:
“If fishing is your exercise then you can fish. But if you end up on a wharf with 50 other people, then we get back to safe distancing and getting tickets.”
New South Wales Police Minister David Elliot said he intervened to remove fishing from a list of banned activities on Wednesday.
Stay local: Queensland anglers can still try their luck on Stradbroke Island, with precautions. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)
In Queensland, the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which overseas maritime regulations, said: “Yes, you can go fishing but stick to local waters. The social distancing and personal hygiene rules everyone has been asked to follow still apply — at the boat ramp and onboard.”
The West Australian Government has not banned recreational fishing or boating, however, Premier Mark McGowan “encouraged recreational fishers to stay at home for now”.
Short of declaring a ban, WA Police echoed the Premier’s advice to stay at home where possible. A police statement said:
“We recommend that any upcoming recreational boating activities are postponed or cancelled.
“The public are being encouraged to act responsibly and protect other members of the community by complying with health directives.”
In accordance with the WA State Government’s Public Health Act — Prohibited Gatherings Directions, WA Police are permitted to enforce on-the-spot fines of $1,000 for people who do not comply with rules around gatherings and physical distancing.
On social media, recreational skippers and fishers argued their activity was essential, whether that be for catching fresh eating fish, exercise, or mental health.
However, RecfishWest communications lead Ben Carlish also encouraged anglers to heed the advice.
“We can completely understand why people would be looking to go fishing for a bit of a break from all of this. It’s good for their mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Carlish said.
“However, while it’s not our job to tell people what to do or what not to do, we are urging everyone to adhere to the Government guidelines.
“But the Government guidelines are pretty clear — stay in your homes unless absolutely essential.”
SA Police said fishing was permitted but asked the public to keep in mind that the same COVID-19 rules applied on the water as they did on land.
The Tasmanian Government said: “You can go boating and fishing for recreational/exercise purposes in line with looking after your mental wellbeing and undertaking exercise. The two-person rule applies, except if you are going boating with persons that you reside with.”
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Government said “If fishing for food or as a form of exercise, people should abide by the regulations set out in the Chief Health Officer’s directions for public gatherings.”
Fishing for “mental wellbeing” is OK in Tasmania, as this Chudleigh Lakes angler might attest. (ABC News: Jess Davis)
The NT Government advised that remote communities had been closed to all non-essential travel.
This means anglers won’t receive an Aboriginal Land permit if fishing activities mean:
- Stopping at a remote community, or
- Passing through a remote community.
However, travel to a site (for example, Shady Camp or Corroboree Billabong) without passing through a remote community or requiring a permit was permitted.
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