The number of responses to the discussion papers outlined by the department underlies some serious concerns held by Queensland commercial fishers. The association drafted its responses using feedback from members and non-members and across the board there is no dominant reform option favoured across the trawl, net or crab fisheries.
Some of the issues noted during the development of the submission included:
- Trust building between industry and the government / fisheries management is almost non-existent and particularly strained.
- The reform process has been a difficult process to accept given there is no sustainability issue amongst our fisheries stocks. Despite this industry is being asked to support a 60% unfished biomass target with no debate and what appears to be a capitulation to environmental, non-government organisations (eNGOs) and the Great Barrie Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to further limit access to the marine environment.
- Industry is fully aware that the community has not pushed for what is being termed ‘reform’ but is a wholesale response to continued pressure from recreational fishing groups, eNGOs and the GBRMPA.
- No funding from government for modelling of proposed options for reform and the financial implications for industry. Remembering this reform was initiated by government not industry.
- A feeling that the reform process is not reform in the true sense of the word but a process that has pre-determined outcome.
- A focus from Fisheries Queensland officers on quota as the best way to manage some fisheries.
- No focus on the supply chain implications of the reform.
- A process that is being rushed with little time to fully consider the long-term implications of the reform process.
- A feeling that the once again the management changes will disproportionately impact small scale commercial fishers.
Many issues remain a concern for industry including vessel management systems (VMS), the role of conservation groups, reform failure and calls for change.
There are questions regarding the use of VMS data and which agencies will have access to our data and how it will be used. Some questions on this issue include:
- Will the agencies or groups noted above have access to the data? If so, please clarify why they need access?
- What assurances do commercial inshore and offshore fishers have that agencies other than Fisheries Queensland treat their information confidentially?
2) Role of Conservation Groups
The association has drafted article reading conservation groups and at no stage has a position been made that these groups don’t have a voice. The argument, at least from an industry perspective, is that there are many alternative conservation groups outside WWF and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and merely suggesting that government could consider other conservation voices or maybe task the government’s environment department to champion environmental causes is a conversation worth having.
3) Reform Failure?
The reform process has failed my industry and the level of division across responses in the attached submissions is not by chance. The department is well aware that industry would not group around a specific management option. The question industry is starting to ask is – has the reform process been designed to lead to a pre-determined outcome? The following provides some background points in support of this proposition:
- The speed at which the reform has been guided (e.g. the implementation of VMS). The discussion around VMS has been stifled and industry advised that its introduction was not up for debate.
- The reform is a 10-year process – why then have 5 discussion papers released at the same time that will serve as the basis of future management arrangements provided to industry in such a rushed fashion?
- There is no financial commitment to modelling the implications of the reform options across each fishery yet money is made available for the introduction of VMS.
4) The reform is in response to community calls for change
What community are we really talking about? The association has not found any community movement with concerns about the sustainability of our fisheries. The communities driving the department’s agenda are recreational fishing and conservation groups and the GBRMPA. These groups represent some but not all community views but industry has been sold a story that our social licence is at stake.
It will be interesting to see how the work groups and expert panel provide recommendations on management arrangements based on the issues raised with the department and the association given the limited feedback. A significant concern is why industry has been so disengaged with the reform process and more importantly that this process is continuing to increase stress levels amongst industry.
Author: Eric Perez, CEO – Queensland Seafood Industry Association
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