Are Opera House Nets Illegal In NSW?


With its rugged coastline and diverse marine life, New South Wales (NSW) is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts from Australia and around the world. However, before wetting a line in the state, it’s important to brush up on the rules and regulations that govern fishing activities.

This includes understanding the laws surrounding the use of opera house nets.

Opera house nets are illegal in all NSW waters. They pose a serious threat to air-breathing marine life such as turtles, platypus, and water rats, as they can become entangled in the netting and drown. They can also damage delicate underwater habitats, including seagrass beds and coral reefs.

This comprehensive guide will cover more information on opera house nets, including what they are, when they were banned in NSW, fines and penalties associated with their use, and why their use is harmful to the environment.

What Are Opera House Nets?

Opera house nets are fishing nets commonly used to catch crayfish and are designed to entangle fish by their gills as they swim through the netting. They were named as a result of their resemblance to the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

The state government regulates opera house nets as they are considered a type of fishing gear that can significantly impact the environment and local fisheries. The nets shouldn’t exceed a meter long, and their entrance diameter should be no more than 7.5 centimetres.

opera house nets

Why Opera House Nets Are Illegal in NSW

Opera house nets are indiscriminate killers as any air-breathing animal that swims into the netting will become entangled and drown. In 2018, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) recorded the deaths of five platypusesOpens in a new tab. that died after drowning in illegally set opera house nets. 

Opera house nets also catch endangered and protected speciesOpens in a new tab. such as the eastern blue devilfish, black rock cod, and the marine sea mollusk Smeagol hilaris. Their “set and forget” nature means they are left in the water for months, causing long-term damage to the environment and marine life.

In addition to the animal welfare concerns associated with these nets, they can also cause significant damage to sensitive underwater habitats. Delicate underwater habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds can become entangled in the netting, leading to their destruction. 

When Were Opera House Nets Banned In NSW?

Opera house nets were banned in NSW waters on 30th April 2021 to protect the state’s delicate underwater habitats and marine life. This ban means that fishing activities must preserve and protect endangered species and avoid the use of damaging tools like opera house nets.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) regulates fishing activities in the state and sets the rules and regulations that fishers must follow. South Australia plansOpens in a new tab. to phase out opera house nets by July 2023 in favour of more environmentally and animal-friendly pyramid nets to save endangered and protected species from being caught in the nets.

Fines And Penalties For Using Opera House Nets

Using an opera house net in NSW waters is a serious offence and will result in a fine and liability for any damage caused. Being in possession of endangered or protected species or using prohibited fishing gear can result in a fine as high as $38,000 or imprisonment for two years.

The use of opera house nets is not only harmful to the environment and local marine life, but it is also illegal. If you are caught using one of these nets, you risk receiving a significant fine. It is important to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding fishing in NSW to ensure you are not harming the environment or putting yourself at risk of a fine.

Harmful Effects Of Opera House Nets On The Environment And Marine Life

Opera house nets pose a serious threat to the environment and marine life, significantly impacting delicate underwater habitats and animals. Some of the risks associated with these nets include:

  • Entangling and killing endangered and protected species which can lead to their extinction
  • Destruction of sensitive underwater habitats, including corals and seagrass beds, as they drift through the water.
  • Long-term damage to the environment and marine life due to their “set and forget” nature
  • They are made of plastic which takes hundreds of years to break down and can cause serious pollution.
  • Risky to local fisheries as the nets can catch any type of fish, not just the target species causing a decline in fish populations
Cast Nets

Other Prohibited Fishing Gear In NSW

Besides opera house nets, several other types of fishing gear are prohibited in NSW waters. These include:

  • Cast nets: While cast nets are legal in tidal waters of Queensland, their use or possession in New South Wales is prohibited. Cast nets are designed to capture schools of fish by encircling them and are often used similarly to opera house nets. Illegally using a cast netOpens in a new tab. in NSW will attract a penalty notice and a fine if the offenders attend a court hearing.
  • Fish traps and nets in trout waters: Trout CodOpens in a new tab. is an endangered species in Australia, and as a result, their capture is prohibited. Fish traps and nets are the most common fishing gear used to target Trout Cod, so their use is also banned in trout waters. Possession of an endangered fish such as Trout Cod attracts a maximum fine of $38,000.

Recommended Fishing Nets In NSW

Healthy and sustainable fishing practices are essential to the future of marine life and the environment. If you plan on going fishing in NSW, it is important to use the correct type of net and adhere to the rules and regulations set out by the DPI.

Here are some of the nets that are recommended for use in NSW waters:

  • Open-top lift design nets: Unlike traditional “set and forget” opera house traps, these nets allow non-targeted and by-catch species to be released unharmed. Their design also prevents them from drifting into sensitive underwater habitats.
  • Pyramid nets: These types of nets are more environmentally friendly as they allow smaller fish to escape. They are also less likely to damage delicate underwater habitats.
  • Bag limitsOpens in a new tab.: When using any type of net, it is important to adhere to the bag limit. This is the maximum number of fish you can legally take home with you. In NSW, most fish’s maximum daily bag limit is 20 per person.

Final Thoughts

Opera house nets are illegal in NSW due to their harmful effects on the environment and marine life. They can entangle and kill protected species, damage delicate underwater habitats, and cause pollution. 

If you are caught using one of these nets, you risk receiving a fine of up to $38,000. Before heading out fishing, make sure you are using the correct type of net and are aware of the bag limit in NSW.

By following these guidelines, you can help to protect the environment and ensure sustainable fishing practices for future generations.

Daniel Clarke

The website is run by myself Daniel Clarke, I’m lucky enough to have been living in Hervey Bay, for 31 years so I’m classed as a local I have seen many changes over this time. Read more about us here

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