'Demonising the industry': Critics hit out at minister

ON THE DEFENCE: Fisheries Minister Leanne Donaldson has responded to criticisms of her and the government's net-free fishing zones.
ON THE DEFENCE: Fisheries Minister Leanne Donaldson has responded to criticisms of her and the government's net-free fishing zones. Max Fleet BUN181215WTP4

FISHERIES Minister and Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson has come under fire from fishermen and the Opposition after she said one fisherman caught 200 tonnes of fish in a night.

Bundaberg fisherman Ben Grunske was upset with the claim saying it wasn't good for the industry.

"Two hundred tonnes of fish caught by a local fishermen in one day,” Mr Grunske asked.

"This style of spreading misimformation has become routine behaviour for this government.

"No commercial fishermen catches 200 tones of any type of seafood in one single day in Queensland.

Mr Grunske said all it did was demonise commercial fishermen.

"Her claims are false,” he said.

"The trawler and netting business that I operate produces approximately 100 tones annually of prawns, bugs, scallops, fish and crabs that is sustainably caught and directly supports many Bundaberg families and local businesses.

"To say that the net-free zones that were brought in last year didn't affect anyone is totally untrue.

"The net-free zones have been crippling to both fishermen and seafood supply chains in the community.

The Opposition has come out in support of Mr Grunske asking Ms Donaldson to prove her claims.

"Does the minister honestly expect us to believe a single boat hauled in 200 tonnes of fish in a single night?” Opposition fisheries spokesman Dale Last asked.

"What were they fishing from, the Queen Mary?

"I challenge the minister to name the commercial fisher, the boat and gear used, what fish were caught and where.”

In response Ms Donaldson said in an interview with the ABC she made reference to a conversation she had with a commercial fisher in Bundaberg who "told me he had caught 200 tonnes of fish”.

"That's what he told me and that's what I repeated,” she said.

"I certainly wasn't misleading anyone or telling lies.

"The point I was making was that I have been told by commercial fishers that they have not seen a decrease in their catch.

"The Palaszczuk government's aim is to create the conditions for a thriving, profitable and productive commercial fishing sector.

"This is why the green paper is so important for the future of Queensland fisheries so we can have a sustainable and productive industry for generations.

Ms Donaldson said local waters weren't home to all varieties of fish and seafood sold by retailers.

"Seafood businesses typically have to source non-local product regardless of where they operate.

"It is well known that commercial fishers sell their product to buyers throughout Queensland, interstate and in some instances overseas.

"Seafood business can legally source product from outside local areas.

"The Rockhampton area is noted for its diverse fisheries - prawn and scallop taken by trawl, coral reef fish species such as coral trout, spanish mackerel taken in line fisheries and mud crabs.

Ms Donaldson said 27 commercial fishing licences were voluntarily sold to the government by operators during a round of buy backs during the creation of the net free zones in Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton.

"Acquiring those licences cost $3.31 million and in addition the government offered a generous and comprehensive package of financial assistance to commercial net-fishers affected by the closure of their regular fishing grounds.

"Two schemes provided an additional $2.6 million in support to eligible fishers.

"A second round of buy backs is underway with an additional $3.6 million available to commercial fishers who wish to take advantage of the offer to voluntarily transition out of the industry.

"It is worth noting that the LNP bought back 74 commercial fishing licences at a cost to Queensland taxpayers of $9 million during their three years in government.

"That is 2.7 times more buy backs than we have made so far, but I don't recall any LNP members kicking up a fuss then about the impact on local businesses.”

Topics:  ben grunske, fisheries, leanne donaldson, net free zones

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