ANGLERS are being urged to help preserve the remaining natural population of the Mary River Cod, one of Australia's most endangered fish species.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district officer Russell Overton said the fish was listed as a no-take species and if caught unintentionally, care should be taken to ensure the fish was returned unharmed to the water from which it came.
He said studies had shown growth rates and the ability to breed were reduced significantly in fish that were caught on a regular basis.
"If the hook cannot be successfully removed without harming the fish, try to cut the line as close to the hook as possible to give the fish the best possible chance of recovery," Mr Overton said.
"It's important we do everything we can to protect the natural population of this iconic native species.
"Fishers who regularly find they are unintentionally catching Mary River Cod should consider altering their fishing equipment or location to try to decrease the likelihood of catching the species.
"Possessing Mary River Cod caught in its natural distribution is illegal in Queensland and can carry an on-the-spot fine of $440 or a maximum penalty of $110,000.
He said fishers could legally catch and keep Mary River Cod at the state's stocked impoundment dams.
"Fishers are permitted to possess one Mary River Cod provided it is a minimum of 50cm in length and caught upstream of the walls of Cressbrook, Hinze, Maroon, Moogerah, North Pine, Somerset and Wivenhoe dams, and lakes Dyer (Bill Gunn Dam) and Clarendon," Mr Overton said.
"Outside these areas, Mary River Cod are strictly a no-take species.
"Regular patrols are conducted along the Mary River and its tributaries to ensure fishers are complying with the law.
"Members of the public can assist with the protection of Mary River Cod by reporting illegal taking or possessing to the Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.
"To assist investigations, take note of personal details such as the offenders' appearance, age, clothing, vehicle registration details and location, however, do not engage the person, as this can compromise an investigation."
For more information on no-take species of fish in Queensland, visit www.fisheries.qld.gov.au or call 132 523.