ONE of the Port's environmental groups has renewed its call for changes to crab trap rules after two turtles in Port Stephens died "needlessly" last week after being caught in one of the devices.
Dr Bruce Pease, president of EcoNetwork Port Stephens, said turtles were dying while the outcome of a review of NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Review of Recreational Fishing Rules was finalised.
Tilligerry Creek resident Mike Diemar reported the death of a green sea turtle, a threatened species, with a front flipper caught in the netting of a crab pot with no float attached last week.
Mr Diemar said there was no bait left in the pot but inside were two blue swimmer crabs that may have attracted the turtle.
Another turtle was found drowned after it became entangled in the rope attached to a crab trap near Cromarty Bay.
Dr Pease said in EcoNetwork's submission to the review of fishing rules the group recommended that entangling devices, such as witches hats, hoop nets and lift nets, be banned in NSW.
"This is because their light weight leads to a high rate of loss with continued 'ghost fishing' and documented bycatch mortality of a wide range of species, including endangered sea turtles," Dr Pease said.
"Witches hats are banned in Queensland and the Sea Life Conservation Fund is currently petitioning the NSW Minister for Primary Industries to save our turtles and phase out the use of witches hat crab traps in NSW."
Dr Pease said one crab trap and five witches hats per person were currently permitted in NSW.
The discussion paper for the review of recreational fishing rules suggested reducing the number of witches hats to four per person and increasing the number of traps to two per person - which the group opposed.
Anyone who wishes to support this Save Our Turtle petition can visit change.org website.