The following article was first published in December 2019 and is well worth a read. I have worked with Margaret on any number of policy issues relating to the commercial seafood industry over the past decade and her observations hit the mark.
Commercial fishing has lost its prominence as a result of the politics of commercial fishing and this code for ‘the votes are with the recreational sector not the commercial fishers’.
An interesting point is made about how much is caught between the sectors. Fisheries Queensland track our catch via log book and now track us with vessel management systems (VMS). The recreational catch impact is not known or properly monitored and as previously discussed their impact on the resource is also not known.
The article speaks to the loss of faith and trust between industry and Fisheries Queensland and the current State Government.
COVID-19 has impacted the State and National economies and the attention has been keeping people healthy through the pandemic. However, in terms of fisheries policy, nothing has changed in terms of the many, many instances of poor fisheries management policy and the damage already caused by the introduction of the State Government’s so-called fisheries management reform process.
Commercial fishers need a miracle to survive
Margaret Stevenson believes it is amazing the fishing business she shares with husband Graham has survived past challenges but, to survive what they are about to receive from the Queensland Government now, it will require a miracle.
In the 47 years my husband Graham has fished professionally, just like many other fishers, we have seen huge changes.
He remembers fishermen being appreciated as food producers who caught fish for the rest of the community. He actually remembers being cheered as heroes as he and his brother brought their boat in to the wharf – the first boat in after rough weather.
Those days are long gone. These days, commercial fishers are considered to be “in the way” of recreational anglers and tourism ventures.
It makes no sense, since many of the tourists say they come to experience our local seafood anyway.
Besides that, fishers have been constantly vilified through media as “rapists of the seas” pillaging supposedly scarce, diminishing fisheries resources in the name of profits and blamed for every perceived reduction in fish stocks – so changes to fisheries management have always targeted commercial fishers since we “catch more” (albeit the share for the public).
This pattern established the industry soundly as the whipping boy. At the same time, we have seen a shift in the focus of recreational angling to promoting itself as repeatedly catching and releasing rather than fishing for a feed.
Any changes in bag limits now has no restraining effect upon those anglers, since their cumulative impacts are never acknowledged, let alone evaluated as an “extractive” fishing activity.
No management body seems to apply any semblance of precautionary principle, even though post-release mortality for those fish not kept by anglers is close to 100 per cent for many species.
The very fact that so many long-term, experienced commercial fishers expect negative outcomes for their businesses and the public out of the Queensland Government’s fisheries strategy, is a pretty fair indication of what to expect since, of all people, they are the ones most qualified to fully comprehend the impacts the changes will have on their own businesses.
For that advice to be so discredited\ and ignored by the powers-that be indicates that the demise of these micro-businesses is one of the desired outcomes of the strategy.
For other bodies to indicate their full endorsement of the strategy, indicates that they also believe their demise to be a desired outcome – ironically, all without a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to determine the full implications for the individual businesses and the industry overall.
So, just when it appeared that fisheries management had been well and truly infiltrated by anti-commercial recreational anglers with very clear conflicts of interest due to bias, the Minister announced that he wants the State to become the aquaculture capital of the world.
The implication of this is that they really see accessing our wild-stocks as the right of only recreational anglers so, rather than be open to criticism for taking fish from the public, they provide an alternative by making secret deals with Big Business that has WWF approval.
Who or what gives an international eNGO [environmental, non-government organisations] like WWF the right to influence or dictate imposed changes upon the domestic seafood industry in Queensland, Australia?
I don’t know. What I do know is that the general public of Queensland and even Australia did not. These have been secret decisions by politicians and bureaucrats in defiance of their responsibilities to the Queensland people.
I consider the fact that our tiny business has survived all we have thus far to be amazing – but if we survive what’s about to be implemented it will be nothing short of a miracle.
I cannot envisage a prosperous future for small businesses out of this so-called “Sustainable Fisheries Strategy”.
It’s a funny thing – when they talk of changes for “sustainability”, real change never applies to the “near one million” recreational anglers who catch fish for themselves but who unashamedly insist that the rest of the approximately 4.5 million Queenslanders should eat only farmed or imported fish.
I personally believe this is a betrayal of our community’s rights to domestic food security and national food sovereignty and the future could yet prove me right.
Author: Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) – Eric Perez CEO and thanks to Margaret Stevenson and all of the contributors to the Queensland Seafood magazine.
Image: Shane Snow
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.