Fishermen 'pushed below poverty line'



BUREAUCRATIC sharks are biting into fishermen's compensation baskets, an industry spokesman said yesterday.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association President John Olsen said fishing families and seafood business operators were not receiving the compensation payouts promised after their livelihoods were devastated by the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"We believe the government wants to fairly compensate seafood businesses harmed by the Representatives Area Program (RAP), but it appears those good intentions are being derailed by middle-level bureaucrats fretting about the department's budget,'' Mr Olsen said.

"Fishers are receiving less money than those who faced similar situations earlier on.''

Fishmac owner Sidney McKeown said his turnover had dived from $6 million a year to less than $2 million, which barely paid the debts.

"We used to export up to 130t of scallops a year. Now it's only 40t because of the trawlers buy-out and the RAP,'' Mr McKeown said.

"We have a significant debt and our capacity to pay that debt is not looking good.

"The vessels are forced to fish less productive areas and combine that with significantly higher fuel prices, they want more money for product, but we can't pay them more.''

Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said if the "difference of interpretation'' between the government's intention and the Department of Environment and Heritage's current payouts was not solved, he would make an issue of it in Canberra.

"Seventy per cent of some fishing areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have been closed down, which has had a profound effect on the livelihoods of fishers and they will be compensated for that,'' Mr Neville said.



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