Qld 2020 News Posts #19: Poor fisheries management policy – what does it mean for you?

Posted in Industry News

I hope this article provides one of many steps towards better fisheries management outcomes. My industry has endured a department – Fisheries Queensland (FQ) – that has the interests of the Minister and government and not food producers or the public at heart. This is wrong and needs to change… maybe in October this year?

To help understand why bad commercial fisheries policy matters, its important to understand why policy outcomes will lead to less seafood access, greater regulation and costs to industry and the corporatisation of our fisheries.

A key set of questions are worth exploring here:

  • When did ideology start to trump scientifically derived data or open and transparent consultation?
  • What are the implications for industry and the public from policy making based on ideology over data?
  • Can researchers really uncover issues and report them without ‘fear or favour’ in a given field of endeavour say in the agriculture or fisheries space, if they work for and are accountable to a public service hierarchy and the government of the day?

I believe the only way to expose the dumbing down of policy making in Queensland is by citing some real examples in the commercial fisheries space that highlight the importance of calling out the public service over their political masters whenever policy making is based on anything other than data or open and transparent consultation.

In the following examples I will label the fisheries management outcomes either (1) Date absent policy, (2) Ideologically driven policy or (3) Pandering to a special interest group.

Example 1: Spotty Mackerel Fishery

  • Government and industry met and agreed to a new fishing arrangement regarding Spotty Mackerel.
  • Former fisheries Minister, Henry Palaszczuk as part of Peter Beattie’s State Government supported 150 fish per trip and by deliberate omission did not discuss that he would ban the use of nets in favour of the species being line caught.
  • Why did this occur – A pro-fishing group policy that basically eliminated the commercial harvest of Spotty Mackerel.
  • Outcome – Pandering to a special interest group
  • Impacts on the community – Loss of access to seafood.

Example 2: The introduction of a 60 percent biomass target across Queensland commercial fisheries

  • Under the so-called Queensland fisheries reform process strategy the State Government wants to introduce a 60 percent biomass target.  Biomass refers to the total weight or volume of fish in a particular place at a particular time.
  • The department defined standard biomass targets at between 40-50 percent amazingly quoting itself and no other research is quoted in its strategy document.
  • Why did this occur – Unclear but given the department made no refence to any science and that the figure has also been publicly supported by WWF Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Council (AMCS), see Queensland fisheries strategy a win for fish stocks & protected species we can assume that the introduction of the target is to appease conservation groups.
  • Outcome – Data absent policy and Pandering to a special interest group
  • Impacts on the community – If fully implemented, seafood supplies will be restricted on the lie that our fisheries need a 60 percent biomass target to ‘save’ our fisheries – from what? Not commercial fishing I think but poorly developed fisheries management policies.

Example 3: Black Jewfish

  • The recreational fishing lobby were pursuing a recreational only species for Black Jewfish. They were successful in the first 12 month introduction of a commercial fishing total allowable catch (TACC).
  • However, in the following year the TACC applied to both sectors.
  • Why did this occur – Poor fisheries management and influence and pressure from radical recreational fishing groups.
  • Outcome – Data absent policy and Pandering to a special interest group
  • Impacts on the community – Loss of access to seafood.

Example 4: Fisheries Consultation Process

  • FQ decided to consult with small groups and individuals instead of using port visits to allow large numbers of commercial fishers to meet and ask questions of FQ officers.
  • FQ indicated on more than one occasion that the ‘default’ management position was the introduction of quota, zoning and vessel monitoring systems (VMS).
  • Why did this occur – FQ did not want to assess industry wide criticisms and legitimate concerns regarding the underlying assumptions of the so-called reform process.
  • Outcome – Data absent policy and Pandering to a special interest group
  • Impacts on the community – Poor overall policy development that will shrink the commercial fishing fleet for no purpose other reason than to appease conservation and recreational groups.

Example 5: Net Free Zones (NFZs)

  • Introduction of NFZs as a political ‘thank you’ to recreational fishing groups in central and north Queensland.
  • Based on 10 years of fisheries catch data Queenslanders have lost over 220 t of fish.
  • Outcome – Data absent policy, Ideologically driven policy and Pandering to a special interest group
  • Impacts on the community – loss of commercial fisher income, loss of trade between commercial fishing businesses and local small businesses and a loss of fish for local, State and national consumption.

Imagine the development of a government corporation / agency that was independent of the State government Ministers that provided what you might expect FQ to be providing – fearless and frank advice – free of political considerations to the government of the day.  This type of agency would remove the political nature of commercial fishing, limit the influence of recreational fishing groups and potentially eliminate the anti-industry influence of conservation groups.

Commercial fishers provide seafood to those who can’t or don’t recreationally fish and the seafood bounty is harvested from a public resource for the benefit of the public. This point is often forgotten by FQ and more critically the current State Government.

There are many more examples of the mismanagement of Queensland commercial fisheries and they will be shared with industry and the public in future news posts.

Author: Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA), Eric Perez, QSIA Chief Executive Officer

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.

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