Mackay’s once thriving commercial fishing fleet has been reduced to a handful of boats now struggling to make a living, mostly in the live Coral Trout industry, and can’t afford any more big no-take zones under Julia Gillard and Peter Garrett’s secretive plans for a vast network of new Marine Protected Areas.
Senator Boswell said draft plans for no-take zones and protected areas along the Queensland coast were to have been public by now but were recently put back by Minister Garrett until next year – well beyond the looming federal election.
LNP Dawson candidate George Christensen said the delay was suspicious.
“When you add to the delay the fact that fishermen have been all but frozen out of discussions about the new zones, while the green groups are clearly on-side with the government, it just makes you naturally very suspicious about their motivations, and what they would do after the election if they were to win it, ” Mr Christensen said.
Senator Boswell said fishing closures that were certain to be put in place by Labor in large areas off the Queensland coast would displace effort and concentrate remaining fishing effort into ever smaller areas, with impacts on stocks and the viability of the industry.
“It’s as if Labor, in concert with the Greens, is out to deliver death by a thousand cuts to the entire industry and deny Australians access to fresh local seafood,” Senator Boswell said.
“The Coalition will very soon announce a policy that will put some balance back into this equation.”
Senator Boswell said he was not in a position to pre-empt the policy announcement, but that the Coalition would certainly be delivering a much more open process, with greater consultation with fishers – commercial and recreational – about new Marine Protected Areas.
Closures would be minimised, but if effort was displaced there would be structural adjustment.
Mr Christensen said the trawl fleet that once crowded the river had been decimated and the fishers involved in the live Coral trout fishery were under stress from cyclone damage to fishing grounds and the difficulty of getting good crews. It was down to 11 boats from 18 only a year or so ago.
“The last thing Mackay’s fishermen need is more fishing closures. They simply don’t need salt rubbed into already deep wounds. The Coalition will not do that. Labor will – to please the Greens.”