Net-free fishing zone monitoring

In November 2015, three net-free zones were declared in the Cairns (Trinity Bay), Mackay (St Helens Beach to Cape Hillsborough) and Rockhampton (Capricorn Coast) regions, closing commercial netting in those areas. They were introduced to increase recreational fishing opportunities, supporting tourism and economic growth in regional areas.

Since then, Fisheries Queensland has collected data from recreational fishers to monitor the changes in recreational fishing over time. The data is also used to inform our other fisheries management activities.

Data collection

We collect information from recreational fishers via our boat ramp surveys, including where and how they fished and for how long, the species targeted, the number caught and released, and the length of those kept.

Surveys are conducted at boat ramps from which fishers commonly access the net free zones, and at some references sites outside of the zones for comparison:

  • 3 ramps – Cairns net free zone
  • 2 ramps – Mackay net free zone
  • 5 ramps – Rockhampton net free zone
  • 2 ramps – Hinchinbrook Channel (reference site)
  • 2 ramps – Townsville (reference site)
  • 2 ramps – Hervey Bay (reference site)

© Queensland Government


Generally, the net-free zones have been positive for recreational fishing. The predicted flow-on benefits (e.g. tourism) require fishers to be satisfied with their fishing trips, which depends largely on fishers catching more targeted species.

The full benefits of net-free zones on the number and size of fish caught by recreational fishers will take time to emerge. However, recreational fishers' satisfaction with fishing in the zones is generally positive and appears to be increasing.

Monitoring the performance of net free zones will continue as part of Fisheries Queensland's monitoring program.


More information