Background

The Australian Wildlife Society met with NSW Minister for the Environment, Matthew Kean MP, on behalf of the NSW Platypus and Turtle Alliance, at Parliament House on Wednesday 13 November 2019. The alliance asked the Minister to implement a complete ban on opera house nets, across the state, and implement a net exchange program to help save platypus and other air-breathing aquatic wildlife from drowning in New South Wales rivers.

The Society is pleased to announce that our efforts have been recognised, with a complete ban on opera house nets to be implemented, in New South Wales, effective from late 2020. We would like to recommend an immediate embargo pending the final announcement.

We are indebted to the strong support from the NSW Platypus and Turtle Alliance members, all of whom are dedicated to the conservation of Australia’s unique wildlife. Current alliance supporters include: Queensland Alliance for Platypus, Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps, Australian Wildlife Society, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, PlatypusSPOT, Queensland Conservation Council, Australian Platypus Conservancy, Nature Conservation Council, Greater Sydney Local Land Service, National Parks Association of NSW, University of New South Wales Sydney, Western Sydney University, University of Queensland,  Centre for Ecosystem Science, Platypus Conservation Initiative, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, Australian Ecosystems Foundation, Secret Creek Sanctuary, The Australian Mammal Society, DPI Fisheries NSW, NSW Council of Freshwater Anglers, Australian Conservation Foundation, Animals Australia, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals Australia, The International Humane Society Australia, Taronga Zoo, Camden Council, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Zoo’s Victoria.

The Victorian Government implemented a state-wide ban on enclosed yabby traps, effective from July 1, 2019. Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have also introduced corresponding legislation. We are now asking the Queensland Government to follow the lead of other states in Australia and:  

  • Implement legislation to ban enclosed yabby traps in all QLD waters.
  • Prohibit the sale of enclosed yabby traps by all QLD retailers.
  • Implement a net exchange program.
  • Provide a detailed timeline for the implementation of the ban.

L to R: Philip Sansom, Stephen Kamper MP (Member for Rockdale), A/Professor Julie Old, Matthew Kean (Minister for the Environment), Patrick Medway, Suzanne Medway, Wayne Greenwood, Ken Mason, Professor Richard Kingsford, Megan Fabian. 

FORMATION OF THE ALLIANCE

1. To develop an agreed and coordinated strategy to address the issue of platypuses and other air-breathing aquatic wildlife deaths in enclosed yabby traps.

2. To ensure that we do not waste time and effort by fragmenting resources, stepping on toes, doubling up or diluting effectiveness by multiple, non-strategic communications.

In NSW, air-breathing aquatic wildlife are being caught and drowning horrible deaths in ‘set and forget’ enclosed yabby traps such as opera house nets (the most common type used). This has been going on for years. The use and possession of yabby/opera house traps are banned in public waters east of the Newell Highway and in three stretches of river west of the Newell Highway: the Edward River upstream of Stevens Weir, the Murray River upstream of the Echuca/Moama Rd Bridge and the Murrumbidgee River upstream of Darlington Point Rd Bridge. All yabby traps are required to have a bycatch reduction device with a maximum diameter of 90mm (fixed ring) fitted to all entrance funnels. The intent of the general yabby trap closure and the bycatch reduction device is to prevent the death of platypuses and minimise the capture of air-breathing aquatic wildlife such as turtles and water rats. However, there is still confusion around these current regulations and traps (with any entrance size) are being used illegally in freshwater waterways and still causing deaths. Therefore, this indicates that many people are either unaware of the law or intent on ignoring it. We believe current regulations, although a step in the right direction, is not sufficient to prevent avoidable deaths. Wildlife-friendly nets such as open-topped or hoop nets should be successfully promoted to recreational fishers to achieve their catch of crayfish. Information sheet >>

Furthermore, these vile traps allow the air-breathing aquatic wildlife to enter but not find their way out, and so in just a few minutes, the results are inevitable and tragic. To make matters worse, when abandoned in a waterway, these traps ‘ghost fish’ - meaning even after one animal is captured and killed, they can continue to capture and drown other animal’s infinitum, over days, weeks or years. Another concern specifically to the female platypuses is that many enclosed yabby traps are used during the summer months when the females are foraging for food to nourish their babies. If a mother platypus dies, her young will certainly also starve to death. The nets are cheap in retail stores and on-line, many with no warnings on legislation or the risks to platypuses and other air-breathing aquatic wildlife. Just recently Victoria took a lead in announcing a ban on these traps and a swap-out scheme to safer traps, and many retailers such as eBAY, Big W, Kmart and Anglers Warehouse voluntarily withdrew their sales.

STRATEGY

The NSW Platypus and Turtle Alliance is advocating for a full-ban on enclosed yabby traps (sale, use, and possession) in NSW to protect Australia’s air-breathing aquatic wildlife such as platypuses, turtles and rakali. Our mission is to prevent the indiscriminate cruel drowning deaths of platypuses and other air-breathing aquatic wildlife in NSW that occur via the use of enclosed yabby traps such as opera house nets. We are not against yabby fishing, we would just like to see it happen in a way that is safe for platypuses and other air-breathing aquatic wildlife. The alliance is being formed off the back of the success of the Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps and Queensland Alliance for Platypus. The Victorian success in banning enclosed yabby traps across the state has been a push for other states to step up and do the same. Legislation in the ACT has also been passed. 

We are following four strategies which have been adapted from the Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps and Queensland Alliance for Platypus:

1: Changing legislation/regulation

We want traps that kill air-breathing aquatic wildlife to be prohibited, and specifically legislation/regulations to ban the sale, possession and use of enclosed yabby traps in NSW.

Such legislation in NSW could include:

  1. Banning these traps via the relevant Animal Welfare legislation. 
  2. Extending the relevant Fisheries legislation/regulation to ban their use in all waters. 
  3. Considering ways to ban them on pure current and potential species conservation concerns. The platypus is already listed as ’near threatened’ via the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

2: Eliminating supply

We want Australian manufacturers such as Anaconda and other suppliers to voluntarily and immediately stop producing and selling enclosed yabby traps (especially opera house nets). In the interim, we want them to immediately and clearly label these traps with a warning that these are potential death traps for air-breathing aquatic wildlife.

3: Reducing in-field usage

We want owners/users to immediately stop using the traps that they have, on public and private land. This could be accomplished before (and after amended regulation) by increased awareness/education which the alliance will work on.

4: Increasing enforcement

We want the public to report the use of any illegally used traps to authorities. This could be achieved by increased awareness/education which the alliance will work on.

QUEENSLAND PLATYPUS ALLIANCE

QUEENSLAND AND VICTORIAN PLATYPUS ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIPS

The Queensland Alliance for Platypus has been formed off the back of the success of the Victorian Alliance for Platypus Safe Yabby Traps.  The Victorian success in banning enclosed yabby traps across the state has been a push for other states to step up and do the same.

These traps are an animal welfare issue for air-breathing animals, as well as a significant conservation issue for platypuses.  Regulations in Queensland are confusing, and we are still seeing horrible deaths of platypuses and rakali in these nets, even after the change of regulations in 2015.  A complete ban on the sale, use, and possession of these nets will take out the confusion and alternatively, wildlife-friendly nets can be used.

The Australian Wildlife Society (AWS) made a seeding donation to help establish and fund The Queensland Alliance.  With the support of organisations including AWS, the alliance is urging the Queensland Government to follow Victoria’s lead and change regulations and for retailers to voluntarily pull them from their shelves and promote alternative, wildlife-safe nets.

VIC update:
From 1st July 2019, opera house nets will be banned in all public and private waters throughout Victoria, a reform that will benefit air-breathing native animals that live in and around waterways such as platypus, turtles, and rakali.  Enclosed yabby traps like opera house nets have been prohibited equipment in public waters for many years, however it appears some fishers who had previously purchased these were unaware they could not be used in Victorian public waters.  Open-top lift nets, hoop nets, bait traps, and baited lines all remain legal yabby fishing gear, and research by the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) has shown that these wildlife-friendly open-top lift nets and hoop nets can catch just as many yabbies as opera house nets. These changes still allow Victorian fishers to store opera house nets in their homes or sheds for interstate use where they are permitted.

Last year the Victorian Labor Government and the VFA initiated a yabby net swap program that offered a free one-for-one swap of an opera house net for a new open-top lift net and since then, 20,000 new open-top lift nets have been swapped over to fishers, with nearly 70 participating tackle shops across the state. Ahead of the ban, many stores proactively stopped selling these nets last year in Victoria, however sadly, some retailers continue to do so.


- Doug Gimsey 

Doug, a man of many talents, completed a Bachelor of Science, Masters of Environment and Masters of Bioethics.  Doug runs a science/environmentally-focused communication consultancy called The Framing Effect, whose aim is to help people influence more effectively, both with words and images.  Doug is the chair of the Victorian Alliance for Platypus-Safe Yabby Traps – a collective established to prevent the cruel drowning deaths of platypus in Victoria that occur via the use of enclosed yabby traps. 

QLD update:
The Queensland Alliance is gaining data on the uses of enclosed yabby traps in the state, they are also taking action towards educating people and persuading retailers to opt for the wildlife-friendly options. Research has reported that wildlife-friendly yabby traps are just as effective at capturing yabbies while reducing the risk of capturing bycatch such as platypus, rakali and other air-breathing animals.

The Queensland Alliance is educating people about the common misunderstandings about the regulations and nets.  ‘PlatypusSPOT’ clarifies some of the common misunderstandings (http://platypusspot.org/blog/general-news/how-can-we-allow-platypuses-to-drown-for-a-few-yabbies).

Victoria has successfully banned these enclosed yabby traps and Queensland and NSW need to follow.  We encourage people to have a conversation with fishing fanatic friends and tell them about the alternatives.  Also, keep a watchful eye out for these nets in your waterways and report to the specific fishing authority.  “Are a few yabbies worth the death of an iconic Australian?  Definitely NOT!”

If you have seen a yabby trap in a local waterway in Queensland (since 2015), The Queensland Alliance want to hear from you: https://tam058381.typeform.com/to/myvGya.

Tamielle is a Ph.D. candidate studying “the distribution, health, and threats to platypus populations in Queensland” at the University of Queensland.  Tamielle has extensive research and field experience in Platypus and biodiversity surveying and has published her research and presented her work at several events.  Tamielle is the 'PlatyCount' Volunteer Project Officer at the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.  Tamielles' passion for the Platypus is prominent through the work she does. Thank you Tamielle. Watch Tamielle's presentation.

NSW update:
Urgent action in NSW is needed.  AWS, in partnership with Queensland Alliance, Victorian Alliance, will be addressing this issue in New South Wales. AWS will write to all companies that sell yabby nets and ask them to withdraw these nets from their sale and lobby the NSW government to ban the use of nets in New South Wales

How you can help:

* Contact your local or state politicians - very politely ask them to support a change in regulations which ban the sale, ownership, and use of enclosed yabby traps, and explain why.

* Spread the word - many people are simply unaware of the regulations (i.e. not to be used in Queensland public waterways) or about the risks that these nets pose (i.e. they drown air-breathing animals), so please pass this information on.  If you find an enclosed yabby trap being used illegally, immediately report this to the relevant authorities.  In Queensland, report to Fishwatch − 1800 017 116.

* Talk to the retailers – if you go into a fishing/outdoor store, ask if they sell enclosed yabby traps such as opera house nets and if the answer is yes, explain the issue to them and then ask them if there is a good reason they won’t stop selling them. To find out who sells them, just Google the words “opera house net buy” and you’ll get a good idea.

* Buy wildlife-friendly nets - such as open-top or hoop nets − they catch just as many yabbies!

MEDIA RELEASE 13.11.19

Minister Matt Kean MP is committed to wildlife conservation issues and has offered us his full support as we work with government agencies to save our native wildlife in all its forms for the next generation of young Australians. The Minister expressed his strong support for our new alliance and promised to give us a ‘timeline’ for the implementation to ban the use of these opera house traps in NSW and implement a net exchange program to help save the platypus and other air breathing aquatic wildlife from drowning in NSW rivers.

Australian Wildlife Society CEO, Patrick Medway AM, expressed his gratitude and thanked AWS Director's for their support of the official launch of the NSW Platypus and Turtle Alliance today. We are also indebted to the strong support from Stephen Kamper MP for Rockdale who hosted the Luncheon and helped set up the meeting with the NSW Minister Matt Kean MP.  Stephen is also a long term member of the Society and has been instrumental in other wildlife conservation projects. The CEO also thanked Professor Richard Kingsford of UNSW for his ongoing expert advice on wildlife conservation issues and in particular for today's launch of the alliance. The National President, Suzanne Medway AM, is delighted with the outcome to provide such support to help save the platypus in New South Wales MORE>>

An enclosed yabby trap (opera house net), that we would like to see banned from use and possession

An open-top yabby net, which air-breathing aquatic wildlife can escape from

In 2019, a team of platypus conservationists submitted an application to the Victorian Government advocating for the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) to be listed as Vulnerable under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

In 2020, the Scientific Advisory Committee responded to the submission, noting they had made a preliminary recommendation that "The information presented in the nomination document (and further information provided to the Committee) appears to demonstrate that the Taxon is eligible for listing”

In short, the Scientific Advisory Committee support the nomination based on the evidence provided and that the platypus be listed in the Threatened list under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 MORE >>

The Scientific Advisory Committee sort public comment in late August 2020.

The outcome will be announced in the near future. 

MEDIA RELEASE 14.11.20 - Platypuses should be listed as Vulnerable in Victoria to enhance protections, scientific panel advises MORE>>

MEDIA RELEASE 23.11.20Australia's platypus habitat has shrunk 22% in 30 years a report released today says MORE>>MORE>>

SPEAK OUT FOR THE PLATYPUS - We are working with other wildlife organisations and campaigning to get national protection for the platypus. Please sign the petition MORE>>

ENTANGLED WILDLIFE AUSTRALIA - The project aims to create an Australia-wide database of wildlife entanglements that can be used to identify risk hotspots, key risk factors, and the range (and prevalence) of species impacted MORE>> Entangled Wildlife Template

NSW Platypus and Turtle Alliance Members and Supporters