Know before you go: Netting in Macquarie Harbour

In 2022, interim restrictions were introduced for recreational gillnetting in Macquarie Harbour. These were then legislated in November 2023 as part of the Scalefish Rules Review. The restrictions help protect the endangered and endemic Maugean Skate (Zearaja maugeana), which is only found in Macquarie Harbour. 


There are estimated to be less than 1000 skates left, and they are highly vulnerable to gillnetting given their biology and preference to live in shallow channels in the harbour. Reducing the impact of gillnetting (both recreational and commercial) is a critical step to protect the skate from extinction. 


Tasmania Police are taking extra care to ensure that fishers are complying with netting rules in the Harbour. Officers regularly undertake both land- and water-based patrols to make sure fishers are complying with the rules. If fishers are found to be in breach of these rules, they can have their fishing gear seized, face fines of at least $585, and be prosecuted in court, depending on the severity of the offence. Fines are cumulative for each offence, so netting illegally can cost you thousands.

Recent targeted enforcement patrols by representatives of the Department of Natural Resources & Environment (NRE Tas) and Tasmania Police resulted in six offenders being detected, as well as the seizure of approximately $2600 of illegally set nets. 

Police on patrol Macquarie Harbour

Tasmania Police conducting on-water inspections.

Police seizing illegal net in Macquarie Harbour

Police seizing an illegal net in Macquarie Harbour.

Responsible Gillnetting

Specific rules apply when  netting within the harbour to reduce the frequency of interactions between the Maugean skate and gillnets. Recreational rules include:

  • A prohibition of taking any skate species in Macquarie Harbour.
  • Additional spatial closures to protect important skate habitat.
  • A maximum soak time of 2-hours for gillnets.
  • A prohibition on overnight netting (as skates are most active at night).

Inspection of compliant net in Macquarie Harbour

Inspection of compliant net in Macquarie Harbour.

Along with following these rules, fishers can practice responsible netting to reduce their impact on the Maugean skate. 
  • Remain in attendance at the net whenever possible and check it regularly. 
  • Reduce soak time to increase survival of released skates. Skates that are caught in gillnets are highly susceptible to depredation by sea lice, crabs and other species.
  • Don’t set your net in rough weather - lost nets can continue to catch and kill fish. 
  • Ensure weights and buoys are appropriately sized and meet legal requirements. 

You can find more information on responsible recreational gillnetting on the Fishing Tas app or on our responsible fishing page. 


A Conservation Action Plan for the Maugean Skate has been developed by NRE Tas, in coordination with the Australian Governments Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW), and the National Recovery Team.

The plan calls for the total prohibition of netting within Macquarie Harbour. NRE Tas has commenced consultation with the West Coast Recreation Association on this and is actively developing a timeline for this to take place. 

Published on: 7/5/2024


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0427 655 557

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Contact us

Recreational Fishing

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

Hobart TAS 7000

Phone: (03) 6165 3233, 1300 720 647


Commercial Fisheries

Level 3, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550


Commercial Fisheries Licensing

Level 1, 134 Macquarie St

GPO Box 44

Phone: (03) 6165 3000, 1300 368 550