Brisbane River threadfin debate round 2
  |  First Published: December 2015

It’s about time we look at the way Issues such as the Brisbane River Threadfin are handled. In this article I want to explore this issue but please keep the following in firmly in mind.

To recs – No solution to fishery issues comes for free. Revenue raised from commercial and PPV levy is only enough to fund the basics of fisheries, limiting their time and ability to help you.

To commercials – You have a right to exist and make money. That is not at the expense of other users, nor does it mean you have a right to ignore community concerns. If you are not willing to listen to concerns then you should expect the community to come hard at you just like other businesses in this era.

To Fisheries – Wringing your hands and saying ‘we can’t do anything’ is no answer. The threadfin issue is not your fault but you are providing no leadership. You are locking in a longer war by hoping it will all go away. Worse, you are alienating people who are willing to work with you.

To politicians – Not even entertaining a fishing license is not very progressive. It creates second-class citizens in the fishery and that is the heart of this issue. Not all fishers will like it but they will at least have proper representation and a means to raise and start solving their problems.

I really hope that nobody gets hurt or worse over this issue or any NFZ debate. We as a fishing community all have a responsibility to keep passions in check.

Why are we on Round 2 of the Brisbane River Threadfin?

So there is this small program called iFish that did a show on the Brisbane River Threadfin. Why not? There is a good story to tell.

Brisbane River Fishing Facebook page shared that the story was on and once again opened the debate on commercial fishers targeting them in Brisbane and the photo featured was the response from a commercial fisher.

I will not comment on the photo. What I will say is that it highlights exactly the problem. The recreational fishing community is locked in one corner where NFZ is the only viable option available. The commercial sector is locked in other corner opposing anything that the community raises on principal.

As I personally discovered trying to work with Fisheries and commercials even a sensible approach of moderation in harvest and improved monitoring for king threadfin in Brisbane just saw me dismissed as an idiot.

Having worked harder than anyone on trying to bring real information to the discussion I think that says a lot about the way things are done in Queensland.

Brisbane Threadfin and NFZs

The Net Free Zones in Rockhampton won’t have a huge impact on barramundi supply, as there are alternatives to take up the slack in the market. King threadfin are a different matter.

Rockhampton region was the largest Queensland supplier of king threadfin to market. Without an alternate supply such as farming, the most likely outcome unless there is a corresponding drop in demand is that the price of king threadfin will go up. If this is being exported the lower Australia Dollar is another factor. While I don’t know the specifics of the king threadfin market, in normal markets lower supply drives up the price.

Recreational fishers may hate me for saying it but that means Brisbane River Threadfin with its proximity to transport to Sydney Markets is now the most attractive alternative. You can’t blame the commercials if they take advantage.

That said, there is not an infinite supply in Brisbane. Poor recruitment (spawning success) means there are many less fish in the system than there were two years ago. The evidence may not convince Fisheries to take action but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Even if recs don’t cause the problem in terms of stocks, recs will have to take restrictions in the name of fixing the problem. That was made very clear to me in my discussion with fisheries.

Once restrictions are in place they are very hard to wind back.

How about Mary River King Threadfin?

Are Brisbane river threadfin more important than Mary River threadfin?

Take fisher A (in Rockhampton, Mackay or Cairns) who has a Net Free Zone. Assuming the NFZ works as advertised they will have a huge advantage over fishers in SEQ with no NFZ.

If then there is then a Moreton Bay NFZ then that will potentially put more pressure on other king threadfin sites such as Maryborough and around Cardwell. Worse, it may see Commercial activity in new sites springing up where smaller populations exist and are now more viable to harvest.

Then what about the poor buggers in Townsville? Or Bundaberg? How much money will the taxpayer accept for NFZ payouts? How many exhausting community wars will the Taxpayer accept? The anglers out west are on their own in terms of fishing options unless they are fishing impoundments. No NFZ will ever help them.

What do you actually want?

The real question, of course, is what fishing outcome do you want?

Would it be okay if we could deliver a good result for the Brisbane River king threadfin and for the Maryborough and Cardwell areas?

A Recreational license is the only realistic way we can do that.

With that license, the options open up including looking at replenishment stocking or buyout of commercial licenses. There could be tradeoffs such as helping commercial providers develop other more profitable business lines or reskill. In other words we can get creative with the solutions, as there is a funding mechanism.

A license allows us to deal with the issue at the source without making someone else’s fishing worse. Even if there are more NFZs a license allows room to mitigate impacts in other areas.

Most fishers pay a premium of one sort or another to fish be it gear, lures, electronics, boats or SIP permits… Even the guy who goes to Kmart and gets rods for the kids for a once a year fish is paying a premium to participate in fishing.

As SIP has shown time and again an annual fee that provides the funding to improve the fishery delivers sustainable results. In fact, SIPs has been so successful for bass that they have never existed in the numbers they do now. Who is demanding that we take away SIPs? Not the long list of sites that want in on the scheme.

The Brisbane River threadfin is a casualty of a system that works at the state level with no ability to negotiate or fund dealing with local issues.

Until recreational fishers are recognized in their own right via a license used for the betterment of the fishery, fisheries in Queensland will continue to be a mess when it comes to dealing with these sorts of issues.

I expect more demand for NFZs. With them I expect more unintended consequences and more demands on government to fix them. I do accept that right now, NFZ is the only tool available to Recs and as such may be the only solution.

I am 100% certain that Fisheries will be against more NFZ’s.

As for the Brisbane River threadfin – the available evidence says this is not going to end well for fish or fishers. Infofish will keep monitoring and reporting back to the community.

For the record, I do think Paul enjoyed his fishing. I congratulate him for his show.

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