QLD: Walls of death for gulf fishery, warns lobby group BRISBANE, Oct 16 AAP - Declining fish catches have caused an increase in drift netting in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Queensland sport and recreational fishing lobby group Sunfish said today. Sunfish Queensland chairman John Doohan said five operators were using the method, but more than 100 commercial fishers potentially could be allowed to use drift nets. "The netting, which legally consists of monofilament nets up to 1,200 metres long set in drift patterns, is now commonly being used from large vessels equipped with mechanical drums to retrieve them," Mr Doohan said. "This technique is the same as the deadly walls of death used by deepwater fishermen in the Pacific which catch everything from fish to dolphins and turtles." The method primarily targeted mackerel, but also netted prime angling species such as tuna, trevally and queenfish, Mr Doohan said. The catches had trebled in the past two years and reports of unwanted catches being dumped and washing ashore had increased. "This highly efficient method is not sustainable and Sunfish is calling on the QFMA (Queensland Fish Management Authority) to at least immediately close the door to further effort, although the more preferable option would be to totally close down these operations until research its conducted on its effect." QFMA senior manager Laurie Gwynne said the nets being used in the Gulf of Carpentaria were not terribly dangerous to other fish types, dolphins and turtles. "It's not the same net or the same type of net that was outlawed in the Pacific Ocean five years ago," Mr Gwynne said. The drift nets that had been banned were up to 30 nautical miles long, and took considerable time to retrieve, which is when the by-catch, such as dolphins, was caught and killed. The shorter nets being referred to here, up to 2.5km, were deployed for shorter periods of time and were less likely to affect non-target species. "There is always the chance of some incidental catch, (but) I don't believe the occurrence is any more significant than netting arrangements anywhere else," he said. The QFMA was developing a set of regional management arrangements for the area, and issues such as netting would be addressed through that process, to which the public could contribute, Mr Gwynne said.