The Byron Bay area is a popular fishing spot, where a variety of fish species are available. However, the area falls under the Cape Byron Marine Park, which includes protected zones and fishing equipment regulations. Although line fishing and spearfishing are the most common techniques used in Byron Bay, one of them is prohibited in the area.
You cannot spearfish at Byron Bay. Also, recreational shore-based line fishing is allowed on the beaches. Areas designated as “sanctuary zones” are closed to all forms of fishing and collecting.
In the rest of this article, I’ll explain why spearfishing is illegal in Byron Bay and which parts of Cape Byron Marine Park are open to fishing. I’ll also discuss the park’s zoning areas and the fishing equipment you can legally use. Let’s dive in!
Why You Can’t Spearfish At Byron Bay
Traditionally, spearfishing used a sharp stick to ‘spearfish’ and catch them one at a time. Modern spearfishing uses more sophisticated spear guns and diving methods to catch fish.
I should note that spearfishing is considered a healthy method of fishing in some parts of the world. However, there are a few possible reasons why spearfishing is not allowed at Byron Bay:
- It allows divers to select the best and biggest specimens of the target species.
- Large-scale spearfishing may cause ecological damage by targeting species unused to or unafraid of human divers.
- Modern spear guns can be dangerous in a populated area with multiple divers.
Although the New South Wales (NSW) government did not explain why spearfishing in particular is banned at Byron Bay, they do state that fishing regulations in general exist for the sake of conserving the local fish population and ensuring sustainability.
Additionally, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) generally keeps a close eye on recreational fishing. Strict rules apply throughout the state, and marine conservation areas are regulated even more.
The Cape Byron Marine Park is one such conservation area. The park is divided into different ‘zones,’ each indicating the kind of activities allowed in the area.
Here’s a quick overview of the different zones in the Cape Byron Marine Park:
- Sanctuary zone: This is the most heavily protected area of the park. All forms of fishing (recreational and commercial) and collecting are prohibited in this zone.
- Habitat protection zone: Recreational line fishing is allowed in this zone for certain species. Spearfishing is also allowed in some areas, but not in others.
- General use zone: Recreational and commercial fishing are allowed in this zone.
- Special purpose zone: This zone is mainly used for research and conservation purposes, and is closed to fishing.
In the Cape Byron Marine Park, most waters off open beaches are designated sanctuary zones or habitat protection zones. No sanctuary zone permits spearfishing. On the other hand, as I have mentioned, spearfishing is permitted in habitat protection zones unless otherwise specified.
Therefore, if you’re using this method of fishing in habitat protection zones, I suggest consulting with the local authorities first.
The general use zones lie further into the sea, where spearfishing is impractical.
You can look at the zone division in this Cape Byron Marine Park map.
Legal Fishing Equipment You Can Use At Byron Bay
Although spearfishing may be prohibited in Byron Bay, you can still use other methods to fish. The rules outlined in the DPI regulations for saltwater areas also apply to Byron Bay.
Here’s a quick summary of the equipment you can use at Byron Bay. The following specifications apply on a per-person basis:
- Up to 4 rods or hand lines with a maximum of 3 hooks or gangs of hooks per line
- Only 1 rod or hand jigging line with up to 6 single hooks with attached lures
- 1 bait trap
- Up to 2 crab traps
- 1 lobster trap
- 1 spanner crab net
- 1 dip or scoop net
- Up to 4 hoop nets/witches’ hats
- 1 hand-hauled prawn net
- 1 scissors net
Remember that spearfishing is prohibited in Byron Bay. Also, all forms of setline, longline, and purse seine fishing are prohibited at Byron Bay.
You can view a detailed list of permitted and prohibited fishing methods on the DPI website.
Most Popular Fishing Spots In The Byron Bay Area
Despite the strict fishing regulations at Byron Bay, the area is still a fishing hotspot. Commercial fishing takes place further out at sea in the general use zones of the park, but recreational fishing is possible even closer to the beaches.
Here are some of the most popular fishing spots in the Byron Bay area.
Tyagarah Nature Reserve
This serene picnic spot is one of the most highly visited areas near Byron Bay. It’s the perfect place to kick back and relax by sunbathing and picnicking. Fishing along the beach or river is a popular activity in this area. However, the beaches here aren’t patrolled, so you’ll have to ensure you follow some basic tips for fishing safely.
East Cape Byron
East Cape Byron is a rocky area further south of the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This area is also a habitat protection zone, meaning that only some species can be collected. Because of the rocks on shore and underwater, boat-based fishing isn’t allowed in this area. Only shore-based line fishing is allowed.
Located between the Cape Byron Conservation Area and Broken Head Nature Reserve, Tallows Beach is a scenic spot for vacationers. It’s a great place to sunbathe, picnic, fish, or walk. However, you cannot take your pets or any other domestic animals there.
Beach fishing is allowed at Tallows Beach. However, the beach isn’t patrolled, so you should be careful when swimming, fishing, or visiting with children or pets.
Spearfishing may not be allowed at Byron Bay, but that shouldn’t stop your fishing expedition there. You can still use other fishing methods to enjoy yourself in the area. Just be mindful of the zoning restrictions in the marine park and follow safety rules while fishing.
When in doubt, consult with the local government authorities on the best fishing method to use in the particular area you’re visiting.
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