Six years ago, the executive of Iluka Fishing Club and myself made the trip to Sydney to meet with the Fisheries Minister, the Director of Fisheries, the Aboriginal Fishers representative and our local member Chris Gulaptis. We were asking for an increase to the recreational fishing area on the Clarence River.
We have the biggest river in the state, probably the most tourists to any river in the state and yet we have probably the smallest RFA.
We also argued the case for the state of our river. Lower fish stocks, too many netters and trapping of our spawning fish were some of the topics mentioned. At that time there were 160 gill netters. That’s enough net to go from the river mouth almost to Grafton, we have been told.
At that meeting, we were told that the Clarence River was second on the list for improvements. Nothing has eventuated. Also, at that time I became ill with prostate cancer and was unable to continue the fight. However, I am now ready to continue the fight.
So what have they done in six years? The answer is nothing! No bigger area, still catching spawning fish and only a slight reduction in netter numbers. When one netter took between 1 and 2 tonnes of whiting in one night, what did that do to fish stocks and what does it mean for the other 99% of fishers and for tourism in our small community?
As an Aboriginal person myself , I think its high time for black and white people to band together and stop the rape and pillage of our river and try to return it to the state it was in say 20 years ago. So my plea to you is to help us to restore the river to a state where our entire community can enjoy its gifts for many years to come. If we all work together, we can and must do it.
Tom Weiers, Iluka