Seafood industry hands petition to Queensland Parliament with 20,162 signatures opposing new net-free zones
A petition containing 20,162 signatures was tabled in Queensland's Parliament yesterday, objecting to a plan for three net-free fishing zones in the state.
It brings the total to 27,670 signatures, across five petitions, presented to the Parliament since July.
The commercial fishing industry says the signatures show public support for their campaign against the three zones, due to be established from November 1.
Mackay Reef Fish Suppliers owner, David Caracciolo, said there is still a chance the State Government will reverse its decision.
"What [the petition] tells me is that the people of Queensland really want to maintain their seafood supply," he said.
"They've had enough of closures and political decisions that regulate primary producers' lives.
"This is a political decision, it's not a resource driven decision."
The Labor party announced, during the state election campaign in January, it would introduce the three net-free fishing zones.
There are in the Cairns, Mackay/Whitsunday, and Rockhampton regions.
Recreational fishing groups have been pushing for the policy for years, saying it would boost stocks of large breeding fish and lay the platform for a new era of fishing-tourism.
Commercial fishing groups argue the zones are not necessary and will affect supplies of local seafood, as well as putting some fishers and related operators out of business.
Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance president, Lance Murray, said he did not question the accuracy of the 27, 670 signatures, but he did argue the petition needed to be viewed in context.
"From what we understand, we assume the bulk of these [signatures] were collected at the Hervey bay Seafood Festival, which is some 396 kilometres away from the nearest net-free zone," he said.
"We are not questioning the amount of support they have got, it's just what was the question that was asked, because there has been a varying debate on this.
"Locally, it is about the supply of locally caught fresh fish, but we understand that the festival in Hervey Bay was about seafood, and seafood incorporates prawns, crabs, etcetera, etcetera."
The petition was compiled by Queensland Seafood Industry Association, which rejected Mr Murray's criticism of the process and said the signatures were collected across the state.
Opposition spokesperson for fisheries, Deb Frecklington, tabled the petition and told Parliament the Government was "blatantly ignoring scientific advice from their own fisheries department" in moving ahead with the policy.
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne has been adamant since the election that the three net-free zones would go ahead.
Mr Murray said Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance had been running a petition in support of the net-free zones and had collected 4550 signatures in the Mackay region in five and half weeks.