ABC Rural reports that Queensland state net bans have crippled the regions’s seafood industry, with wholesalers struggling to secure supplies of fish.
Commercial angler David Swindells told ABC Rural that he has had people knocking on his door and asking for fish as they are unable to obtain it anywhere else. Seafood wholesalers have backed calls for the re-introduction of nets in specific areas, saying that since the net-free policy was adopted in November last year, fish supplies dropped dramatically.
The rationale behind the introduction of net-free zones was that this would boost the local recreational fishing sector, which would in turn support tourism and economic growth, but the results have yet to be seen as no new tourism operators have appeared in the Fitzroy River or Keppel Bay areas.
The furore has exploded just as Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Leanne Donaldson indicated the possibility of an extended Government voluntary fishing licence buy back scheme which initially had originally failed to reach its target.
The Government had hoped to purchase 46 licences to prevent fishers affected by the net-free zones from moving into other areas. Only 27 were bought, at a cost of A$3.3 million.
"We certainly didn’t get the amount of licences or interest that we would’ve liked," Mrs Donaldson said.
David Swindells was one who took up the Government’s buy back offer, receiving a payout of $143,000 for the licence he had held for 14 years plus another $6,000 in additional compensation. He said the lack of take-up had meant increased competition in an industry of tight margins.
‘Fishermen are transferring from one area to another and putting in a hell of a lot of effort, especially into the crab fishery. Unfortunately, the people in the crab fishery are making less money than they ever did,’ he told ABC Rural.