Lake Macquarie History

Do divers scare fish?

In May 1960 three Lake Macquarie Councillors accept an invitation to go skindiving from a local diving club, to ascertain the facts surrounding the controversy of whether diving impacted on the Lake's fish population.

After complaints by local fisherman were made known to Lake Macquarie Shire Council, the Health and Parks Committee approached the Fisheries Department to impose a ban on spearfishing in the lake. A week later the Maritime Services weighed in on the argument in support of the ban. Conjecture was made that the presence of divers impacted negatively on fish, so much so that the fish were frightened away, impinging on the population and thereby affecting line fishing. The Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen's Association, in a letter to council, argued that the sport should be encouraged as it was clean and healthy, encouraged physical activity, attracted visitors from overseas, assisted scientists with fresh discoveries and created industry and employment. It also stated that there were strict rules that applied to diving and assured council that their members adhered to them. The chief Health Inspector, Mr Ray, suggested prohibition at the entrance of Swansea Channel. Lake Macquarie Shire Councillors considered a 100 chains (a little over 2000 metres) a suitable distance.

photo: fishing,swansea bridge

An invitation from the local diving group, Newcastle Neptunes Underwater Spearfishing Club, was sent to interested members of council to experience first hand how fish reacted to 'foreigners' in their domain. The club asserted that fish were curious and creatures of habit. Three councillors took up the invitation. Cr Keith Newsome was the first to jump on board, followed by Cr Wal McDonald and finally Cr Alan Pitts, a ticketed deep-sea diver, took up the invitation.

The dive took place on Sunday May 15, 1960, on a cold and blustery autumn day, before a crowd of almost 200 people. Joining the councillors and divers was a reporter who described the event, from a participant's view, in great detail. One councillor, Keith Newsome, found the dive so exhilarating that he joined the Neptunes Club immediately after completing the dive. Post dive, the three councillors called for the recission of the motion and a debate was scheduled at the next council meeting. During the interim period, council received a letter from the Newcastle Neptunes Underwater Spearfishing Club recommending that licensing be applied to spearfishing and that their club rules be legislated. This would enable suspensions of licences for those who did not comply.

At the council meeting held on May 23 1960 votes were carried in favour of the recission motion, 7 votes to 4. A conference of all interested parties was then called at a time in the near future, where all points could be discussed and considered and an informed decision could be made.

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