Dire Repercussions for Fishing Industry
  |  First Published: February 2011

Firstly, I’d like to wish everyone who was affected by the floods a speedy recovery in getting life back to normal.

The Queensland Government/Fisheries also gave us a nice Christmas present with a six week closure on snapper, pearl perch and trag from February 15 to the end of March. The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) document was also released with the cut off from the response forms being the end of February. But I will get back to that later.

This six week closure stinks of bureaucracy with the Labor Government trying to keep the Green allies happy. The data they have based their decision on has had plenty of holes poked in it and a some of the data has come from the Gold Coast, collected from a few charter vessels that have serviced the tourist trade. These charter boats sit on close reefs catching tailor, trag and sweep, with only the occasional snapper being caught primarily as by-catch.

The genuine charter operators distance themselves from the data and authors but certain people inside fisheries love the authors because they tell them what they want to hear. The report is authored by a representative from Pacific Marine Life Institute whose motto is to ‘Explore and Protect’.

Let’s not forget when this surfaced a couple of years ago, it was from the Gold Coast area and the push was for a bag limit of 2 snapper at 45cm. The snapper fishing the last few years has been solid, but this past season was a cracker – as was the past mackerel season and also the one we are in the middle of now. To me that all coincides with the amount of rain we have had in the last couple of years.

Drought on land, means drought at sea, but now with all of this rain, the fishing and the fish stocks are in good shape and there is no way the stocks are as bad as they are making out.

We’re all stuck with this upcoming six week closure, but let’s be honest and see who is going to be affected.

The majority of the recreational fishers are chasing pelagic fish at this time of year, as are most of the pro fishers. But the majority of charter vessels chase mixed reef fish all year round, so straight away they are affected and virtually have to sit in port for six weeks.

As you know I am a charter operator, but I only run a smaller boat which gives me the option of chasing pelagic fish, so I can stay at work through the closure. But the large charter vessels set up for reef fishing have no choice but to sit in port.

You might think I am having a bit of a whinge but how would you like to go without your wage for six weeks? How are you going to pay your mortgage or feed your family?

The RIS document has been released and I urge you to read it yourself and not just listen to hearsay surrounding it. Apparently there’s been lots of crap being tossed around fishing forums, with the attitude of ‘one out, all out’ being a popular opinion.

There are four options that Fisheries have given us, with the best Option 1 and the worst Option 4, which is a four month closure for everyone. (For full details about these options see page 104-106 – Ed)

If we did end up with Option 4, the fishing support industries such as tackle shops, charter businesses and more will have little or no chance to make a living for four months. Sit down and think about that for a moment and really wonder if you could survive with no income for a third of the year. So the people who have this ‘one out, all out’ attitude should think a little bit beyond their noses and try to go without their income for the same time frame.

Option 1 includes a six week closure for the recreational sector on the take of snapper, pearlies and trag and a licence fee of $90 a boat per annum and a 260 tonne total allowable catch.

The charter and professional fishers don’t have any closures but they would have much reduced total catches, with charter allocated 32 tonne per annum and the pros 110 tonne. These boats swill also have a reporting system of phoning in total catch and weight before they get back to shore and where they will be landing.

In Option 1 the charter and pros allocated catches would be managed but ITQ (Individual Total Quotes) the same as they already do in the Spanish mackerel, coral reef fish and spanner crab fisheries with good success. This gives good information to authorities so they know exactly what is being caught, and can continue to be manage the fishery effectively.

One thing other to consider is once a pro or charter operator has caught their quota they have to stop catching snapper or buy unused quota. Either way once the total quota is caught, the charter operators and the pros can’t take any more fish. The recreational anglers can continue to catch snapper until their 260 tonne quota is reached.

Unfortunately this is the hand we have been dealt and the Government is going to rubber stamp one of these four options and Option 1 is the best of a bad bunch in my opinion.

Option 1 also has the mandatory log book reporting for the recreational sector as well as for the pros and charterers and this would finally give Fisheries some accurate data to base informed decision on in the future.

The pro and charter industry have been hit very hard with much reduced amounts of fish allocated to be taken, as well as fees attached but Option 1 is the best they can do. It’s the best the rec sector can also finish with, with only one six week closure and instead of Sunfish sitting back taking pot shots at the commercial and charter sectors they should get on the front foot and lobby the Government for cheaper permit fees for the snapper fishery. They should also try to get the money to be spent back into the fishing industry and not bailing the Queensland Government out of debt.

I’m not trying to win any friends here, I am just trying to make fellow anglers aware of the disastrous outcomes there would be to the majority of businesses related to the fishing industry if we would end up with four month closures. I don’t think anyone should have the right to stop someone from earning a living.

Fishing Front

On the fishing front. Fishing during the limited opportunities to get offshore has been very good. There have been plenty of trag and amberjack on the wider grounds and both Spanish and spotty mackerel have been firing on the close inshore reefs.

Wahoo have also been in good numbers at Hutchinson Shoal and the Sevens off Point Lookout. But right along the coast from Double Island Point mackerel are the rage and there are plenty to go around.

Enjoy your fishing, take care on the coastal bars and if you would like to join me for a charter (while I am still in business) give me a call at outlaw charters on (07) 3822 9527 or 0418 738 750 (Max five persons).

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