Why Qld seafood lovers ‘should be worried’ by reforms
SEAFOOD prices will skyrocket, imported products will flood the market and hundreds of fishing families will "sink or swim" under new rules in the state's $300m fishing trade, the industry says.
The State Government marked the end of two years of consultation over landmark fisheries reforms as final submissions closed last Friday.
But the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, the peak body for the state's 2000-odd commercial fishermen, claims the process has been hijacked by recreational fishing groups and green activists.
Third-generation fisherman Ray "Boysa" Chaplin, pulling in his net at Caloundra, said many in the seafood industry felt like "stunned mullets".
"It stinks,'' the 69-year-old said. "None of us are going to be able to make a living. Not with the new quotas they're giving us.''
The old salt employs a team of seven to "throw a shot" of gill net off the golden sands of the beach, wading through surf, to drag in a catch of fish, mostly mullet.
"Mullet used to be not worth two bob, now it is filleted, used for crab bait, and they take the roe," he told The Courier-Mail.
"That's just a small haul, but when the weather's good and the fish are on the move along the coast, we can get 20 tonne in one shot.
"My family has paid for and owned a licence in 106 years of fishing this inshore coast and there's plenty of times when we've gone home empty-handed.
"Now if I try to sell that licence, it'll be worth nothing. And that was supposed to be my superannuation.''
From the Gold Coast to the Gulf of Carpentaria, about 90 per cent of commercial fisherman are vocally opposed to the new reforms, a state-funded survey found.
But Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the new rules and catch quota limits were about maintaining a healthy fish population.
"We can't just keep things how they are,'' the Minister said.
The plan would leave a "legacy of a sustainable fishery for our children and grandchildren", he said.
The proposed reforms impact some of the State's most important fisheries - the trawl, crab and east coast inshore fisheries.
They include new quotas for individual operators, new size limits for pearl perch and king threadfin, seasonal closures for snapper, new mud crab limits and banning lightweight crab pots.
Mud crabber and QSIA past president Neil Green, of Alva Beach in the Burdekin district of North Queensland, has never seen "so much angst" in the industry.
"It just feels like they're trying to run us out of business,'' he said.
His business averages about 5.5 tonne of mudcrab a year - at an average price of $40 a crab.
"But now we've been given 3.8 tonne in our quota allocation and I'm out-of-pocket at least $25,000-a-year. My daughter wants to be a full time fisher but now she will have to walk away from the industry."
Prawn trawler operator Kevin Reibel, who operates one boat in Tin Can Bay and another in the Torres Strait, said there was no science behind the new quotas.
"Its crazy, it's sink or swim for most family-run commercial operations but most will sink, because there is not a lot of profit in the game as it is," he said.
"Most of us are small mum-and dad operators trying to pay a mortgage, send kids to school, and keep a deckhand or two in a job.
"But now prices will skyrocket, and most of the seafood sold in shops will be imported or farmed, not wild caught from our clean seas."
QSIA chief executive Eric Perez said livelihoods were on the line and blamed activists and lobby groups who claim to represent the state's 642,000 recreational fishers.
"We've drawn the brunt of Labor's political pandering to the inner-city Green Left and propaganda about nets being "invisible walls of death".
"This will only have upward pressure on the price of fish because it will be harder to get local product.
"Sadly, it seems like Fisheries Queensland is hellbent on killing the industry and feeding us to the sharks."