By Staff Writer Mozza
Recent Ministerial changes made under new fishing regulations that came into force in 2019 under the Fisheries Act are setting alarm bells off all over the Queensland fishing industry including here on Bribie Island and surrounding waters.
As a result, the seafood industry's peak body says their industry and the multi-generational families that earn their living from it have been torn apart by the political agenda of the state government.
Industry representatives are saying quotas don’t account for weather changes and would result in industry corporatisation, meaning domestic seafood catches would likely be sold in other nations rather than being available for the domestic population.
Representatives also say corporatized fishing industry of large multinational fishing companies could potentially squeeze out locally owned fishing ventures and turn their workers into lowly paid servants of those corporations who skim all the profits and take them overseas. This scenario has played out all over the world when governments introduce quota systems and this government has learned none of the lessons from that.
In addition they say, fishers who do not have sufficient or any quota in specific species will still catch them from time to time and will be forced to discard what would otherwise be a valuable food source for the public. This is an irresponsible approach to fisheries management if sustainability is a sincere concern.
Fishermen are telling industry what's being said by the government doesn't match what they see in the water. The industry of course want a sustainable industry, but the processes put in place about total allowable catch is hurting fishermen who are just making ends meet now. If they've get further reductions of 30pc, they won't be viable.
After 100 years of involvement in all aspects of commercial fisheries management and consultation, Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) president Keith Harris said they have recently been excluded and ignored in matters that affect every part of their lives.
He blamed an extreme green and anti-fishing ideology that the government was unable to walk away from and called for the removal of WWF Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society from government working groups.
His statements were previously rejected by Fisheries Minister Mark Furner, who said because the allocation of any resource was challenging, the government had sought feedback specifically from commercial fishers.
QSIA chief executive officer Eric Perez said that on the contrary, industry was talked at but no genuine consultation took place.
"The government had a plan in place and green extremist groups on the working groups," he said.
The QSIA has called for the reform process to stop while a review of quota management arrangements and zoning takes place, and for modelling of the impacts of the reform on the consumer supply chain.
"The quota changes will cull our fishing families," Mr Perez said.
"We estimate 30 per cent of operators in the inshore net and crab fisheries will be out of work. The majority of the fish that you eat now in Queensland is caught locally by net fishers.
"There are certain types of fish people want to see every day - if we can't meet consumer demand with wild-caught fish, the gap will be filled with either local aquaculture or imported fish products."
Both the QSIA and opposition agricultural spokesman Tony Perrett said no modelling was done by the government on the socio-economic impacts the changes would have, or the effect on the post-harvest industry.
"If you put structural reform in place, a regulatory impact statement should inform that process but that hasn't happened in this case," Mr Perrett said. "The thing the minister has got to do is release the science. He's just saying, trust me."
The government argues that the reform, which includes net-free zones, meant there would continue to be Queensland fish on the table while thousands of jobs in both the commercial and recreational sectors would be protected.
He added that the introduction of commercial catch limits for species such as barramundi and mud crab would help ensure fish for the future.
Mr Perez described such comments as bordering on the insane.
"With the introduction of quota we estimate at least 20 percent of commercial fishers will exit the industry, not compensated for the impacts on their businesses.
"With less local product there will be extra pressure on the retail sector, putting at risk jobs across our industry. Again, no modelling has been done."
"What they're frustrated about is they seem to be fighting an ideology."