QFS reneges on Albatross Bay closure
  |  First Published: July 2003

WHILE the east coast has received a number of fishery reforms of late, some of which will have a significant effect on the health of the recreational fishery, the Gulf of Carpentaria continues to be almost totally ignored. In fact, a closure to commercial netting mooted for Albatross Bay, Weipa, at the end of the 2003 season has now been skillfully deferred to a so-called ‘review’ at the end of 2004. Who knows when it is going to eventually happen now?

The proposed 2003 closure (supported by a petition signed by a majority of Weipa’s population and including letters of support from all of its major tourism, business and conservation bodies) had been right through the consultation process – approved by Tropical Finfish MAC, given the green light by the QFMA board – and was ready to enter legislation. Then the QFMA was dissolved and the QFS arose in its ashes. The same people were still there, but all past promises were conveniently forgotten.

At the inaugural meeting of the QFS-instigated Gulf Management Advisory Committee GulfMAC), none of the recreational representatives (including myself) who were involved in the formulation of the original Albatross Bay closure were invited. Reports from that meeting indicate that QFS had decided the past was null and void, all previous promises and discussions were forgotten and then argued that there was not enough time to reconsider the proposal before the due date, still over 18 months away at that time.

Given that there were no recreational fishers at that meeting familiar with the closure’s history, who could point out that Queensland’s fishery management consultation process had already fully discussed the issue and approved its implementation at the highest level, these preposterous proceedings were minuted and Albatross Bay was again open slather for commercial nets for the foreseeable future.

Once again, recreational fishers have been treated abysmally by a fisheries service that has no appreciation of their economic and social importance, in spite of the fact that members of that same organization are actively involved at this very moment in comprehensively establishing the extent of these very facts. As I pointed out to one of the fishery managers, the charter operators in the Gulf this year will produce gross revenue well in excess of that by all the Gulf’s commercial barramundi fishers, and money spent by visiting fishers to Karumba and Weipa will probably amount to, at least, 20 to 30 times that amount.

Last weekend alone, Weipa saw over 1100 entries in its annual fishing weekend and $50,000 worth of prizes distributed. My private expenses (entry fees, fuel, food, drinks, promotional items) for the weekend were over $250 (plus $360 in sponsorship). Multiply that by 400 families and you get $100,000 spent locally in just one weekend! Plus many thousands of dollars raised for charity (and incidentally, QFS gets a hefty slice).

Fishery managers in Queensland have repeatedly kicked Weipa anglers in the guts, firstly with the controversial circumstances that established the Pine River Catch and Release Zone, now by reneging on the Albatross Bay netting closure. There has been promise after promise but all have proved to be somewhere between hot air and outright lies.

Premier Beatty and Minister Palaszczuk, it’s about time you stepped in and sorted this mess out. People like me who have spent hundreds of unpaid hours on your Management Advisory Committees for little reward do not deserve to have their small wins overruled and subjected to the unnecessary wastage of public funds discussing the very same issues for a second time.

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