Concerned Barramundi Net Fisher

Posted in Industry News

A great deal of anti-commercial fishing propaganda has been published over the years creating a perception that net fishing negatively impacts the Barramundi population on the Fraser Coast.

Shane Snow – Crab and Net commercial fisher and Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) non-Executive Director

I was born in the Fraser Coast region and I have fished these waters commercially for the past 35 years. When I was younger there were up to 8 full time net fishermen netting for Barramundi in this region. Over the years most of these men have either sadly passed on or now retired. As a result, I am now one of the few commercial net fishers who does 90% of the Barramundi netting here.

Due to fisheries and environmental closures my actual working time is now down to about 1/3 of what it was. I have never seen the fishing better than what it has been in the last 15 or so years. I attribute this to a Barramundi breeding and stocking program that the net fishers of the local Mary River region solely and completely developed and implemented in the 1990’s. The Burrum River was also included in the stocking program.

Now my utmost concern for the future is the repeated cries from radical recreational fishing alliances, such as the Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance (FCFA) calling for the banning of generational Barramundi netting on the Fraser Coast. The FCFA recklessly advocate luring hundreds of thousands of recreational fishers to target Barramundi and companion species such as King Threadfin Salmon. This has potentially devastating consequences for the local species stocks and the marine environment.

Let’s look at some Queensland statistics:

  1. The Queensland population is over 4,983,000 residents.
  2. There were over 21 million domestic visitors to Queensland.
  3. According to the Department of Agricultural Industries and Fisheries there are approximately 700,000 recreational fishers.
  4. There are 94 commercial net fishers in Queensland and only N2 licenses to catch Barramundi.

Putting these stats into perspective:

  • There are 7,446 recreational fishers for every 1 commercial fisher that is licensed to catch and sell Barramundi.
  • Assuming recreational fishers don’t purchase local caught seafood, there is one net fisher for every 53,000 Queensland residents.

It is not logistically or economically possible for every Barramundi net fisher in Queensland to come to the Fraser Coast to fish during the Barramundi season – however it is certainly a possibility for 700,000 or more recreational fishers to descend on the Great Sandy Strait and Mary River as groups like the FCFA are advocating to happen. What implications does that have for our fish stocks (which are a public resource), the environment and capacity to deliver local infrastructure?

For the majority of residents and visitors, is it a future of not being able to visit the local fish shop or restaurant and enjoy a meal of local “Barra” and other local species?

Eric Perez – Eric Perez, CEO – Queensland Seafood Industry Association

Commercial fishers provide seafood for local, domestic consumption and for the tourism sector and restaurants that offer fresh local seafood.

Commercial fishers ensure the visitor experience includes access to fresh local seafood. The removal of net fishing will not create or enhance the visitor experience. The real economic boon resides in an active commercial fishing sector. Between 2012 and 2017, Tourism Australia’s Consumer Demand Project focused on what most motivates international tourists to visit Australia. The Consumer Demand Project document cites fresh local seafood as a critical tourism drawcard.

Consumer Demand Project

According to surveys undertaken by Tourism Australia, 43% of respondents associate Australian food and wine with fresh seafood. Tourism Australia also states that food and wine is a key driver of tourism and is particularly important for consumers from Japan, China and the United Kingdom which equates to 2.3 million visitors or 28 percent of all visitors to Australia. These three markets alone generate over $14.5 billion in terms of total spend in Australia.

The Queensland Asia Tourism Strategy 2016-2025 under one of its many strategic directions cites the fostering of development of high quality Queensland experiences including the consumption of local seafood as well as recreational fishing.

Queensland Asia Tourism Strategy 2016-2025

Organisation’s like the FCFA’s relentless work to remove net fishing is a greedy proposition denying access to fresh local seafood and it’s to the detriment of Queensland and Australian seafood consumers as well as foreign visitors.  A key part of the thousands of ‘foodies’ that visit the Fraser Coast are put at risk by the tired calls from recreational fishing groups to remove net fishing.

Much more work needs to be funded by the Department of Agricultural and Fisheries to help explore the value of commercial fishing beyond gross value of production.  The fact that commercial fishers make a living from accessing the community’s marine resource is argument enough for government to help understand and unpack the economic benefits that come from commercial fishing.

Authors: Shane Snow, Crab and Net commercial fisher and QSIA non-Executive Director and Eric Perez, CEO – Queensland Seafood Industry Association

Image Credit: S. Snow

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Taking the politics out of fisheries management