THE Australian Platypus Conservancy has warned that illegal fishing in the Wimmera River could pose a threat to platypus.
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The warning comes after biologists from Biosis Research uncovered evidence of unlawful traps and lines during an environmental survey in the catchment.

Biologists found an opera house yabby trap containing the dead body of a native water rat and two drum nets, as well as unattended ‘set’ fishing lines.

The conservancy’s Geoff Williams said drum nets and opera house traps were banned from rivers because they had the potential to drown platypus and other aquatic species such as water rats and freshwater turtles.

He said platypus could also become hooked and killed on unattended fishing lines.

Platypus and water rat populations in the Wimmera River declined during drought years and remain at critically low levels.

Mr Williams said one of the factors repeatedly cited by landowners as having contributed to a marked decline in platypus numbers in the Wimmera was the widespread use of drum nets and gill nets.

He said the use of such nets could compromise the chances of the populations recovering.

Opera house traps can only be used in farm dams and their use is prohibited in all public waters in Victoria.

Leaving fishing lines unattended is also illegal and fisheries officers can impose fines for any recreational fishing regulation breaches.

Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers in the Wimmera fined three people more than $2500 in total for having used illegal opera house nets in February.

The department has asked anyone who sees people using the illegal nets in public waters to call the Offence Reporting Line on 13 34 74.

A spokesman said more information about regulations was available at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/fisheries.

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