Legalised bowfishing on table after positive review of NSW government, DPI trial

DRAWING A LONG BOW: Jason Flesch takes a shot at a big carp at Jingellic during an 18-month trial of bowfishing, the practice could be legalised in inland waters. Photo: Supplied.
DRAWING A LONG BOW: Jason Flesch takes a shot at a big carp at Jingellic during an 18-month trial of bowfishing, the practice could be legalised in inland waters. Photo: Supplied.

The NSW government is opening the door to legalise bowfishing for carp across the state, which could help to alleviate the noxious species' continued destruction of inland waterways.

Australian Community Media's Central Western Daily can reveal agriculture minister Adam Marshall will release a discussion paper for public consultation on Friday, following the review of an 18-month trial conducted throughout inland waterways in 2016 and 2017.

Bowfishing remains prohibited in inland waters and can only be undertaken in the same areas as spearfishing, as they share the same definition in current regulations.

"The fishing community has asked me and the government to have a discussion about allowing bowfishing of carp and we've listened," Mr Marshall said.

"The consultation period ... is the first step in progressing potential rule changes and I encourage interested parties to give their feedback and enter the discussion.

"We will also consult the Recreational Fishing NSW Advisory Council and other government and non-government stakeholders throughout this process to ensure the activity is conducted safely and sustainably.

"The trial program and its subsequent review identified that bowfishing is a safe and sustainable fishing technique."

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Mr Marshall said 200 fishers took part in the trial program and 'safely harvested more than 700 carp' from inland waterways across the state.

He said with the right regulation bowfishing could provide an avenue to help reduce the species' destruction and impact on natives, although its large-scale efficacy remains to be seen.

Particularly as the National Carp Control Plan - designed to release a carp herpes virus into Australian waterways - has yet to roll out.

Regardless, Orange-based NSWDPI Acting Director of Fisheries Compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty, said any safe and viable removal techniques should be seen as a step forward.

"It may not make a massive dent in carp populations on it's own, no, but working alongside other removal techniques it can play a role," he said.

"Anything we can do to help removal of carp...can only be considered good news.

"The trial we did took a lot things into consideration like how effective it was in harvesting carp, the safety of the practice and its economical benefits, we got ticks back in all those departments.

"A really big thing considered in the trial was any impact it could have on native species and that was raised as an issue to us, but the review was positive in those terms as well.

"We've put a lot of safety caveats in place for the rules and around the specifications of the equipment, like the tethering of all arrows.

"I think it could be a really great thing for regional NSW."

To assist with ongoing education and awareness around the rules and regulations, a Bowfishing Guide would be developed by Fisheries and bowfishing stakeholders.

Fisheries officers would regulate the activity with support from NSW Police.

The public consultation period will be open until Monday, April 12.

According to the NSW DPI, Carp are a large introduced freshwater fish which are common throughout most of NSW.

They are well known as a pest because of their destructive bottom-feeding habits, which stir up sediments and muddy the water.

A female common carp can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs in a single spawning cycle and that rate of reproduction could render bowfishing's impact a blip in the ocean, or river in this case.

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