Qld 2020 News Posts #09: Queensland fisheries reform spin

Posted in Industry News

The Association was inspired to draft a version of a great article drafted by Dr Tanya King of Deakin University titled, ‘Thanks for all the fis … hang on a minute’ that was published as an opinion piece in the Age on 10 February.

Link: Thanks for all the fis… hang on a minute

Consumer access and in effect consumer rights have been continually undermined by Government.  Let’s use the current Queensland Government’s fisheries policy approach as an example – the story you hear from our elected officials often involves either misdirection (e.g. our fisheries are unsustainable when there is evidence that our fisheries are sustainable) or sowing division amongst the commercial fishing industry (e.g. setting up consultation processes that are designed to divide industry opinion thus allowing Government to say ‘well no consensus on a way forward let’s just introduce quota management and commercial fishers will be better off financially’ and somehow they save our unsustainably fished marine resource).

For the record, there has been no economic analysis of the implications of quota management at any stage through the so-called reform process. Queenslanders have also never seen any data supporting the contention of the reform white paper that our fisheries are under threat. The Association would be happy to debate this and many other elements of the reform but that seems unlikely given the views held by the State Government.

Dr King provides an overview of fisheries closures in Victoria that were never justified on social or environmental grounds but were pushed through on economic arguments.  The Victorian Government no doubt looked at how the net free zones (NFZs) were introduced and Queensland and thought, ‘Yep – here’s a vote winning policy’.  The Queensland Government’s behaviour suggests that fewer commercial fishers would somehow translate into more recreational fishers, more domestic and interstate tourism.

The Government’s thinking was based around NFZs leading to more investment from charter fishers once the scary local net fishers were kicked out of Cairns, Rockhampton and Mackay.  Some will argue that the fishers were fully compensated for their loss – not the case, no payments were made for the true value of the commercial net fishing businesses or any stranded assets as a result of the NFZs policy.

So how has the Queensland seafood consumer been hoodwinked and ripped off?  Again by way of example the NFZs cut off approximately 30 percent of the wild caught Barramundi that was once accessed by commercial fishers.  How can this be sound economics?

Before the NFZs were introduced the resource was being shared by commercial fishers and local anglers with no sustainability issues.  Some will argue that tension between anglers and commercial fishers might justify closing access to the harvest of local seafood, it doesn’t. More importantly, the message sent by the State Government is that 80 percent of Queenslanders that cannot recreationally fish due to age, ill-health or simply because they don’t want to fish have no say because of the smoke and mirrors act set up by Government on behalf of their very important constituency – recreational fishing groups.

There were arguments used that local caught fish was being sold interstate and that somehow this justified the NFZs?  Of course a proportion of seafood is exported (overseas and into other states) but a greater proportion is sold domestically.

For your consideration, the announcement in 2019 that Queensland has 943,000 recreational fishers is… not credible yet it’s an official estimate.  So, in 2013 the Queensland Government figure was about 642,000 anglers.  Over a 6 year period no analysis of angler numbers was published.  Suddenly, the year before a State election our angler numbers have grown by 301,000 new anglers.  So broken down over 312 weeks (6 years) the Government is suggesting that the angler community grew by 965 new anglers, every week for 312 weeks.

The political spin – 1 in 5 Queenslanders are recreationally fishing… therefore we will introduce more limitations to commercial fishing either through extension of NFZs or some new justification for limiting commercial fishing.

A quote from Dr King’s opinion piece – Queensland figures / comment in blue for comparison purposes:

‘There is truth in these numbers, but not where you might think. According to VRFish (Fisheries Queensland), the Victorian angler peak body (It could be argued the current State Government is the unofficial angler representative body), there are 838,000 (943,000) anglers in Victoria (Queensland), 13 per cent of the population (19 percent, the figure in 2013 was about 14 percent) no change from the percentage recorded in a 2013 Victorian National Parks Association report. The commercial fishers ousted from Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes (Cairns, Rockhampton and Mackay), number around 50 (over 40). It is easy to see why the government might favour the wishes of well-organised and vocal angler lobby groups over a handful of professional fishers: votes ’.

Fisheries Queensland have no idea about the cumulative impacts of 943,000 on the marine environment.  For that matter neither does the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority or conservation groups.  You might think they would have concerns but please don’t think that because to date there has been no discussion amongst these groups about the impacts on fisheries sustainability.  The commercial fishing industry with roughly 3,000 full-time employed individuals makes up a massive 0.3 of 1 percent of recreational fishers in Queensland.  Who’s impacts on stocks should we be focussing on?

So when you read the slogan ‘I Fish and I Vote’ – 4 out of 5 Queenslanders don’t fish but vote.  At some point in the future politicians need to lose the fear of a small but vocal proportion of anglers and see past their threats.

Author: Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA).

Image: QSIA.

This message is endorsed by and proudly brought to you by the QSIA under the Qld 2020 campaign in the interests of achieving better fisheries management for industry and the community.  Qld 2020 is about: a fair go – for food producers, their families and regional / coastal small business job creators.

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