Darryl Lee, of the Lee Fishing Co. says the whole region will suffer with the threatened demise of his industry.
Darryl Lee, of the Lee Fishing Co. says the whole region will suffer with the threatened demise of his industry. Renee Pilcher

Fishing bans could 'ruin lives'

A PROPOSED total ban on commercial and recreational fishing off the Cooloola Coast and Fraser Island would kill Tin Can Bay and wreck lives across the Gympie Region, it was claimed yesterday.

Fishing industry representatives said the new bans, put forward by Environment Minister Peter Garrett, would also greatly damage Rainbow Beach, wreck families and close down whole service, tourism and logistical industries from Gympie to the coast.

The proposal, put out as a “work in progress,” will be subject to public submissions, but Bay fishing industry people say they have experienced a decade in which a series of damaging new fishing laws have been implemented, almost without amendment, despite processes officially referred to as “public consultation”.

The plan leaves a narrow area for beach fishing, but bans all reef fishing, trawling, crabbing and scalloping from there to about 160km off shore.

It extends over much of the popular “tinny” fishing and commercial fishing grounds from south of Double Island Point to north of the Maheno wreck on Fraser Island, a coastline distance of more than 60km.

The beach fishing area has its own regulations, as part of the Great Sandy Marine Park, which covers the Great Sandy Straits and the Cooloola and Fraser coastline up to just south of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Mr Garrett said the proposal marked one of several “Areas for Further Assessment for the East Marine Region” and marked “an important milestone in an unprecedented effort to assess the unique economic and environmental values of the Australian east coast marine environment”.

“It's the end,” Tin Can Bay fishing industry leaders predicted yesterday.

“And not just for commercial and recreational fishing, but the whole economy of the Bay,” they said, adding that it would also mean a new era of scarcity for consumers seeking clean Australian seafood product.

It would leave the pension as the Bay’s only remaining industry, they warned.

Families would be destroyed, young people would leave, schools and shops would close down.

Trawler owner Kev Reibel said his industry was vital also to all the families behind businesses servicing it, including “processing, fuel supplies, butchers, bakers, grocery stores, everyone who to and supplies the fishing industry”.

“It’s also the end for all the tourist operators, shop keepers and marine industries that service recreational fishers.”

And it would greatly impact consumers. “We sell to people who like seafood but who don’t fish.

“They will have to do without clean water Australian seafood and learn to live with inferior imported product,” he said.

Industry colleagues Terry and Jamie McAndrew backed up the claims.

Most in the industry were still recovering from the damage caused by the Trawler Management Plan, which cut trawler numbers from 1800 to less than 300 and the Representative Area Plan, which put new restrictions on fishing near the Barrier Reef.

“We’re like a punch-drunk fighter staggering around everywhere,” Jamie McAndrew said.

“This affects everyone who catches fish and who eats fish,” Mr Reibel said.

Processor and fisher Darryl Lee said he had been warning of a final shutdown for the industry for at least a year.

“There’s been trawling here for 50 to 60 years and we’re still getting good catches, so where’s the environmental damage?” he said.

“They make us dump by-catch that could amount to 18 per cent of our income, even though it’s already dead.

“It washes up on the beaches and people blame us. Where’s the environmental sense in that?

“Tin Can Bay is a fishing village. Fishing has cultural significance here too. How can they end the lifestyles and livelihoods of 42 trawler families and two generations?

“We can’t afford the fuel to trawl off Cairns. They’re shutting us down.

“But up north they’re opening prawn farms, which pollute and kill all life on the seabed wherever they pump out the waste,” he said.

Gympie Times

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