Snapper Shut Down
  |  First Published: March 2011

March 2011 is the month where a total closure to retaining pearl perch, trag jew and snapper will take place in Queensland waters.

There are a few Incredible clients who don’t mind trolling all day, but the majority have voted with their money and demanded the return of deposits for March trips. While obviously this will disappoint and disadvantage some readers, I need to fill you in on the more serious economic consequences of this closure to Industry.

The sole purpose of the six week Rocky Reef closure by Fisheries was to bash into submission rec fishing unrepresentative bodies that had rejected outright the need for any further management of recreational snapper fishing in South East Queensland. Most of these dinosaurs anointed by the Burns Inquiry back in the 1990s no longer fish offshore, if they ever did, so Fisheries failed in their objective.

The unintended targets that Fisheries have hurt are tackle shops, charter operators and other struggling marine businesses. Talk to any tackle shop and they will tell you that because of the rain, flooding and general economic downturn that since November 2010 things have been pretty grim. And now that there is a glimmer of a break in the weather in March, the Fisheries closure has shut down consumer spending on tackle, charters and boats. In war this is called collateral damage. In Queensland it is called just plain stupidity by Fisheries. As the weather events unfolded, the commonsense thing to do would have been to relieve industry of a probably intolerable burden. But not in Queensland.

In my role of Chairperson of the Marine Queensland Charter Division I have talked to most charter operators from Moreton Bay to Wide Bay. The economic cost to the operators who rely on bottom fishing, along with the long spate of bad weather, is very close to business destroying in some cases. And the tackle shops are hit even worse.

Fisheries Minister Mulherran and his advisers deserve a collective kick in the rear for not cancelling the snapper closure when it became obvious that the rains and floods were going to pose severe obstacles for marine businesses to operate profitably, or even survive.

The Queenland Tourism Industry Commission has issued a press release stating: “At QTIC we are urging the state and federal governments to take some further tangible measures to support tourism businesses and the industry at large. Now is the time to be proactive and invest, it will be a far more effective way of dealing with the situation rather than letting the industry flounder and bearing the cost to the community later”.

The real outlook looks like this: You blokes work hard, feed your families and pay your bills first, then go fishing. For charter operators, they take some of you fishing and then feed their families and pay their bills. And so it goes for other marine businesses. We are looking for certainty through the Rocky Reef RIS which will allow us to continue feeding our families and paying our bills. For that to happen Fisheries needs to identify charter operators as a discrete sector with a financial dependence on this fishery. Anything less than an ITQ for historical participants in the charter fishery will see the end of many currently sound charter businesses, tackle shops, marine dealerships and boat repairers.

So where to from here? As Leonard Cohen sang, “I have seen the future Baby, and it’s murder.”

Fisheries refuse to give any certainty to the charter and tackle sectors over management options which may be implemented for snapper. Investment and business planning have stalled in the South East Queensland charter, tackle and marine businesses. There is even more doubt about Fisheries getting it right in the future as they have undertaken a very limited and highly flawed ‘consultation on consultation’ which will simply rubberstamp the woefully inadequate status quo who are earmarked for ‘consultation’ by Fisheries currently.

The next three to five years will see our access to fishing limited severely through a number of processes including the Snapper Review, Federal Marine Bioregional Planning, and upcoming reviews of GBRMP and the Great Sandy MP. Now is a very good time for fishers to get informed and involved in each and every consultation process right from the very start. By the time Fisheries call public meetings, it is way too late to do anything significant to change a process.

Trawl the web for information, especially the Fisheries, Marine Queensland, EPA, Sunfish, Ecofishers and Ausfish web sites. Try to get a hold of the emailed Marine Queensland Weekly News which provides a current update on issues. And talk to other fishers about how you would like your fishery managed into the future.

Fishing in March

Wide Caloundra this March will be off limits to anglers because of the rough weather and the high likelihood of catching pearl perch and trag on the bottom. If you can’t keep those species which can be common on the bottom at this time of year, there is no point going to Wide.

Stick to the shallows for mixed coral reef species or chase spotties or Spanish mackerel. The Trench will have a few black marlin, wahoo and mahi mahi. This season has been a cracker for mahi mahi so I would even make these my target species on rec trips.

I am going to slip the Incredible to anti foul and repaint it in the first two weeks of March so I am ready for the boom May, June, July, August and September bottom bashing we will have after all this rain. We will be planning to catch plenty of pearl perch, trag and snapper on the Incredible in these months. To book your trips on the Incredible please call Keith on 3203 8188 or email: --e-mail address hidden--

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