The following article was published in the Queensland Seafood 2020 Number 1. It provided an industry-based view and series of concerns regarding the introduction of quota management and drafted for your consideration by Shane Snow, QSIA Director.
In this article, let us look at the methodology of Fisheries Queensland (FQ) in trying to force quota upon our industry.
In simple terms, the idea that Fisheries Queensland (FQ) has been trying to peddle is that, if we are sent to quota, then we can buy or trade quota units (if we can afford to that is) to “own” a bigger piece of the catch pie, so to speak. As less quota becomes available, FQ maintain that your quota will be worth far more than was originally paid for, thus creating for us a tradeable asset. How good of FQ to have our best interests at heart, I call BS to this.
For transparency, I have always been against quota and minimum quota holdings, and always will be, as it will crucify the smaller fisherman. No-one should be able to take away the right of any fisherman to go to work and provide for their family and for the community. It is our God given right for all of us to have a share of the public resource, not just a select chosen few.
Let’s look at the FQ scenario.
No matter what you own or want to sell, something is only worth what others are prepared to pay for it, so FQ is way off the mark in trying to convince us that we will have quota “assets” that will be worth a small fortune. Lending institutions have likened our industry with quota to the taxi industry and will not lend against it. Several operators have approached their lending institutions for money to buy potential quota, only to see every one of them rejected.
I personally have lobbied FQ for years to have our primary vessel licences recognised as statutory fishing rights, thus creating an asset that is recognised and accepted by lending institutions – all to no avail. FQ have never shown the slightest interest in this, a far more equitable solution rather than trying to con us in the belief that quota will achieve the same. Like many fishermen, I suspect that the quota model is actually driven by a “green agenda” to restrict us to the point of starvation. The quota model from FQ has been based on a “60 per cent biomass” target.
The 60 per cent biomass “blanket” that FQ have dreamt up is farcical. This is the magical figure of all the species that FQ are trying to slam into quota. I ask why this 60 per cent figure, when both worldwide and by Commonwealth fisheries standards, between 20 per cent and 40 per cent is the accepted norm and has been for a very long time?
Female and undersized male crabs cannot be harvested. This suggests that crab biomass is a significantly higher figure which, in all reality, would be above 60 per cent. This has come as a matter of agreement amongst both commercial and recreational as a way to protect the stocks but never under a target of 60 per cent.
The target in any other fishery has no scientific support if a global target at 40 per cent is considered conservative; again, I ask: why the 60 per cent target? How can FQ set the biomass target so high when we harvest a single sex species.?
Can anyone tell me when “one size fits all” when dealing with diverse species, some of which are “polar opposites” of the other?
Mud crabs live for around three years (a time frame generally accepted by leading marine biologists). A barramundi can live to at least 20 years. How can these two species possibly be compared to each other with regard to biomass when one (mud crabs) grow and die at a rate about 700 per cent faster than the other?
Of all the quota-managed fisheries worldwide that I have studied, not one of those fisheries has been of any benefit to the fishing industry – to the investors, yes, but not to the fishing industry operators themselves. They have been devastating to fishing businesses and regional economies. Quota is open to monopolisation and manipulation by whomever has the most money to buy the most quota and for whomever can afford to “sit” on quota the longest.
Some fishers that I have held lengthy conversations with over the years on quota have this idea that quota will force some fishers out (leaving the existing fisher with a bigger allocation of quota) because they have not got enough “history” to meet the quota entry criteria.
This is a very short-sighted misconception. I suggest that nobody knows anyone else’s situation for catch history or financially, so this is an absurd assumption. This is another tool of FQ: using the “divide and conquer” method on our industry and, to some degree, it was working.
ITQ vs TACC
Another scenario on individual transferable quota (ITQ) compared with total allowable commercial catch (TACC) that I spoke about to Fisheries Minister Mark Furner and FQ representatives at a recent meeting is as follows.
When ITQ is used, it is actually more pressure on the resource because the operator has to catch the quota he or she has paid for: “I’ve paid for it, I may as well use it”. The prime example is that, as of the 20 December 2019, with TACC the highest quota usage was sitting at 31 per cent for spotted mackerel. With ITQ, the lowest quota usage was 36 per cent to 100 per cent for Black Teatfish and Spanner Crab at 56 per cent.
When this scenario was discussed, FQ representatives had about zero comprehension of what this actually represents – and these are the people driving the “quota bus”! From the latest stock assessments from FQ, stocks are sustainable.
Through FQ’s own admission in meetings with me, stocks are good. So, I ask everyone reading this: what is the real agenda behind quota? The scariest thing to note is that the kilogram-value of quota units are able to be “dialled up or down” at the discretion of FQ, as we have seen numerous times. You can draw your own conclusion.
Author: Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA), Shane Snow, QSIA Director.
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.