Cairns Bed n Boat
Who Ya Gunna Vote For?
Well, another election is upon us and it’s time to put the thinking caps on. Deciding who’s going to get to run the country for the next few years is an important task, who do you want to get the cheque book?
That choice is entirely yours of course, but let’s examine some issues relating to recreational fishermen first, and see if a picture paints itself. Ideally we’d have time to ask pollies questions, and print their answers, but this time, the clock won’t allow it. You’ll have to ask them yourself, and so you should.
Commonwealth Marine Parks
From a Federal perspective, there is no bigger issue on the table than the massive new Marine Parks (MP) constructed around the country, and more importantly to a lot of this readership, the Coral Sea Marine Park, which covers almost a million square kilometres.
Half that park is now ‘green zone’, one quarter is ‘general use’ and the other quarter is ‘special use’ which restricts rec and pro. The whopping green zone is a long way off the coast and the great majority of rec fishers would never have gone there to catch a fish in their life time anyhow, and that’s exactly how Labor is selling it.
But there’s more to consider. Clearly, the amount of fish taken from way out there by our sector would be so miniscule as to be almost immeasurable in context with the size. So why ban us? Banning someone implies that something is wrong with what they were doing and obviously there’s no grounds for that.
So perhaps the zoning is to stop commercial fishing, which it definitely will. Do we want that? CAREFISH made a study of the commercial effort in the Coral Sea and found it to be no big issue. The large percentage of commercial harvest there is long line tuna, and the amount taken is very small.
We don’t often pat the commercial fish industry on the back, but we found no cause for alarm in that pelagic fishery, and found no shortage of existing management tools at the government’s disposal if the tuna were being fished too hard.
I’m sure that most of us like to buy fresh tuna at the local Japanese Restaurant; I know I do, and the only place that can come from is the fish market. Already in Cairns we’re finding minced tuna in sushi and in my opinion it is not nearly the quality of tuna fillet. I’m told it’s an imported product which annoys me as well.
When the plans are enacted next year, there will be NO access to local fresh caught commercial tuna from Mackay north, so we best get used to the imported minced version, thank Labor for that.
I’ve talked to LNP’s Tony Abbott, Sen Warren Entsch (Leichardt) and Sen Richard Colbeck (shadow Fisheries) about this and they assure me that the ‘Management Arrangements’ (which govern what activities are permissible) in the Park will be reviewed with the focus being on ‘sustainable use’ rather than ‘lock it up’. I think this is as much as we can hope for, and good on them for applying common sense.
The other issue with the whole Marine Park chapter in our lives is the amount of so called ‘submissions’ received by gov. Tony Burke claimed almost seven hundred thousand ‘submissions’ were considered and those overwhelmingly supported the MP’s.
CAREFISH wrote a couple of carefully considered submissions throughout the process and invested a large effort in doing that, involving the community, commercial fishers, and environmental groups. We made study of the existing regulations and also investigated the harvest from surrounding countries etc.
We are outraged that a ‘tick in a greenie website box’ from another country “Do you want to save the Coral Sea? Tick here” would be called a ‘submission’. We understand that well over 90% of so called ‘submissions’ were from outside Australia and in fact only around one thousand actual individually written submissions were received. That process should be reviewed and be made more transparent.
Super Trawlers were another focus of Federal mishandling. I have sympathy for the owners of that ‘Margiris’, in as much as they were given permission to operate here, but I have no sympathy for a government that thought it would be fine with the vast majority of Australians who jumped up and down when they found out about it.
What a bungle? Back flipping going on everywhere! A very pertinent question you should be asking your campaigning pollie is “where does your party sit with all this for the future? Can you give us assurance that this mess won’t happen again?”
I’m not hearing encouraging messages coming from any politicians at the moment, and have a queasy feeling that we haven’t seen the end to this story yet. Now is the time to get commitment.
Rotation of Green Zones in the GBRMP
This pops up a lot. You can be certain that the fishing would be better in the GBR green zones, (and I like getting amongst a good bite as much as everyone else) but that attraction is also envied by COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN who push and push to get back into them.
It’s obvious to me that Reef Line Fishers have fished the wild stock down substantially, especially coral trout. Somewhere near 3 million Qld trout per year was taken out and flown to the Chinese markets in Hong Kong peaking in the 2001 era. Almost all of it was from the GBR.
Industry and gov finally recognised that the stock was being flogged (wow!) and imposed a cap (TACC) on the take at about 1.5 million fish (1350t av 0.87kg/fish) and the gov paid huge compensation to them for the restriction via SAP/RAP. But the stock was already fished below this capacity and has therefore continued to fall by about a hundred tonnes a year since. This is called ‘depletion’ and they are just as much your fish too, so you should be concerned.
I my opinion, and that of almost ALL marine scientists studying this, the higher amount and size of fish in the green zones keep a flow of juvenile fish going into the zones outside the green zones where they are harvested by both commercial and recreational fishers (at a ratio of about 10:1 ie 750t pro:80t rec according to our studies in 2012). This overflow is called ‘recruitment’ and has taken some years to mature and should NOT be messed with.
If a public debate is opened on GBRMP zoning, then it would be opened to ALL SECTORS including dive tourism AND environmental. Personally, I do not relish the prospect of fighting the likes of PEW on another zoning battle, look at how the Coral Sea MP debacle panned out with masses of greenies demanding ‘not a millimetre less than 100% green’.
Rationalising Commercial Harvest
If you want to ask federal pollies for something, ask them to support the state to reduce commercial harvest and effort to sustainable and profitable levels. The first step to determine the correct levels in the various fisheries is by independent ‘Harvest Strategies’. The higher World Heritage and GBRMP values carry both national and international importance, and are therefore a federal and state
The state can not afford to do this alone and no longer have the human resources to facilitate it anyhow, with many Fisheries Qld personnel now gone, thanks to successive premiers tightening belts. In our opinion, Fisheries in urgent need of state AND federal attention follows…
Live Trout Coral trout have been hammered for nearly two decades. The current TACC (total allowable commercial catch) is 1288 tonnes which in our opinion is twice what it should be. This must be reduced substantially. Also the fish should be left to recover from commercial harvest during the spawn months.
Trawl We think trawl is currently about right as far as effort goes, but there is heaps of over capacity which is latent at the moment, and that could be activated, to everyone’s detriment, if a new big player or players got involved. Over one million ‘effort unit’s’ need to be removed from this industry to keep it operating at current sustainable and profitable levels, (not seen for a long time).
Inshore Fishery, Net and Crab Both these have been flogged for many decades, much to the detriment of the recreational and tourist’s fishing experience, and commercial profits. Where on the east coast has a huge ‘barra’ signature anymore? The state has a $9m buyback of gillnet endorsements right now and aims to reduce them to around 200.
There were almost 1400 back in 1997 which was complete madness. But even with successive reductions, total annual harvest has not altered. No longer is the local netter seen rowing his tinnie out 50 mtr and smoking his pipe, but rather ex trawlers with huge refrigeration space, and hydraulic drum net haulers fitted, are more and more the norm. Drum net haulers are even seen on much smaller boats now increasing efficiency per endorsement enormously, as they can carry so much more net and require so much less manpower pulling them in.
The NT has 14 gillnet licenses total and is rewarded with an outstanding rec and tourism sector, with huge ‘net free areas’ installed, and there’s no shortage of fish in their restaurants. Anyone who can add up to two should be able to see where the major ‘benefit to the community’ lays.
Small ‘Gill Net Free Areas’ As in NSW and NT, NFA’s have been called for for years by us and others around ‘high recreational value’ urban areas and gov are well aware of them. Will they support them? You should ask them! Ask the AF+LP too if you’re thinking of voting for them, you might be surprised at their answer.
Crab is another industry in peril with way too much allocation. Something has to be done. That industry has been trying to finalise its own ‘management plan’ for nearly twenty years!
One of the big issues with net and crab (and trout) is that the operators can go into any area they want. This disrupts the local bloke that may have a ‘community conscience’ and leaves the towns waterways alone. Competition boils this pot quick smart, and everyone loses out.
Management by regions is the only way to rectify this. A region might be either Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays or Mackay etc and the locals can focus on their own patch with much more clarity and chance of forming successful formulae for their region, rather than the current state wide approach, which is clearly dysfunctional.
The proposed industrialisation of ports along the Qld coast needs study on many levels and we only have to glimpse at the astonishing Gladstone shemozzle to gauge our level of concern. The fish disease there has now been found in a great many species including shark, ray, sea snake, gar even turtle and crab according to the locals who have lost their entire seafood industry, and that is disgusting.
There are some massive projects in the pipeline for the coast and something like 42 million tonnes of dredging is proposed for the next few years, a bizarre amount to comprehend.
Apart from the obvious environmental disruption, the spoil has nowhere sensible to go ie either into the GBR waters creating vast sediment chaos, or as landfill causing an even greater acid sulphate mess. And these new areas will have to be maintained to certain depth levels, so maintenance dredging will be an ongoing legacy to be dealt with forever.
Masses of suspended sediment are no friend to many marine species starting with seagrass at the very core of the food chain. Surely NO-ONE wants to see another Gladstone, and serious thought should be given to this subject.
So, what does your aspiring politicians say about all this? Ask them!