Commercial fishers reeling from planned 'net-free zones'

Commercial fishers say proposed net-free zones for areas on the Queensland coast will cost jobs and remove fresh fish off the plates of locals.
Commercial fishers say proposed net-free zones for areas on the Queensland coast will cost jobs and remove fresh fish off the plates of locals. Mike Knott

COMMERCIAL fishers say proposed net-free zones for areas on the Queensland coast will cost jobs and remove fresh fish off the plates of locals.

Prior to the State Election, Labor committed to establishing three net-free fishing zones in Queensland at Cairns, Mackay and the Capricorn Coast.

Labor said the benefits of its fishing policy include adding about $150 million to the state's economy and would generate tourism-related activity with charter boat and recreational fishing.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said the government would implement the policy in a methodical and consultative way.

"This will include consultation with commercial fishers and the seafood industry prior to the zones being established," he said.

However, Bundaberg commercial fisher Paul Grunske said there had been no consultation with the commercial fishing industry and the industry he had been a part of for 35 years was being "shafted".

Mr Grunske said if the policy went ahead it could be disastrous for locals with supply of popular fish such as barramundi and king salmon, impacted.

"Commercial fishers will be out of a job because these guys derive 100% of their income from these areas," he said.

"They net fish and come to places like ours and it's distributed and sold into the seafood sector.

"We have 55 staff here and if our fish supply is reduced by about 50% then I am looking at reduction of at least 12 to 15 people."

Tackleworld Bundaberg manager Ben Shorten said that he thought the decision was about the government trying to keep the Greens happy.

"I think there should be some commercial fishing that carries on so that people who can't fish, can eat fresh local fish," he said

"They don't want to eat basa that comes from some sewerage pit in Vietnam.

"But we also have to have those areas be sustainable."

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt described the move as "madness" and urged residents to make their objection known to local state members.

Mr Pitt said the Federal Government's efforts to introduce mandatory country-of-origin food labelling could prove pointless if Australian consumers couldn't actually buy Australian seafood.

"By denying our commercial fishers access to local fishing grounds, the state Labor government will be forcing Queenslanders to eat imported fish," he said.

"That's why it's so important for consumers to support our local fishing businesses, by buying locally caught seafood."

Topics:  commercial fishers policy state govenment

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