Peter Garrett.
Peter Garrett. REG WOOD

Council to take up fishing fears

GYMPIE regional councillors will seek an audience with Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett over possible fishing closures resulting from his department’s review of fishing rights off the Cooloola Coast.

The action followed a report to this week’s general meeting of council.

Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett told the meeting he had attended a meeting of fishing, business, political and conservation interests.

The meeting, called to develop strategies for responding to the review, was held at the office of Gympie solicitor and seafood industry advocate Michael Garrahy.

The deputation is expected also to include Tin Can Bay Chamber of Commerce president Peter Todd.

Bay fishers and business interests have expressed alarm at the review, which they say has potential to shut down the town’s economy and deeply wound business and employment interests throughout the Gympie region.

The strategy meeting also included Bay fisher Kevin Reibel, Gympie MP David Gibson, Mr Todd, council economic development officer Lynne Wilbraham and David Kreutz, from the federally sponsored fishing industry environmental organisation, Ocean Watch.

Mr Kreutz, who lives in the Mary Valley, is a former secretary of the Save the Mary River Co-ordinating Committee, helping bring fresh campaigning experience to the pro-fishing campaign.

Mr Garrett has promised a lengthy and thorough process of public, industry and scientific consultation before even preparing a draft policy for the area in question, which extends from Double Island Point to about three quarters of the way up Fraser Island and out many kilometres past the continental shelf.

The area in question includes the lucrative fishing grounds which provide most of the amateur and charter fishing grounds off our coast, as well as most of the income from trawling, crabbing and scalloping for fishing businesses from Mooloolaba to Bundaberg.

Despite alarm in the region’s fishing, tourism and marine and maritime service industries, Mr Garrett has promised the review is not code for a fishing ban.

He promised it would be a genuine process aimed at preserving a future for all stakeholders, as well as the environment.

Fishers say their industry has already been savaged by State Government reviews and is like “a punch drunk boxer”.

They claim “Consultation” had been a false promise, their submissions had been ignored and all their worst fears had come true.

Mr Garrett promised this would not be the case with his review, however.

“There will be marine protected areas,” he said, “but the review would be thorough and fair.”

Gympie Times

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