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LABOR LOCKS IN LOSS OF QLD’S PRIZED MACKEREL FISHERY

Dec 1, 2023

The Palaszczuk Labor Government has refused a last-minute attempt by Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) to rescue the Queensland Spanish Mackerel industry.

Last night KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter attempted to disallow Queensland Fisheries plans to decimate the North Queensland-based industry.

This involves:

  • reducing the total quota entitlement take of Spanish Mackerel for commercial fishers (578.03 tonnes to 165 tonnes);
  • reducing the recreational possession limit to one fish per person or two fish per boat;
  • removing the previous additional possession allowances for extended charter trips;
  • adding a further regulated period for the Northern Spanish Mackerel waters for 2023-25.

Mr Katter said Labor’s refusal to withdraw, or at least delay, the regulatory changes was a blow to Queensland’s broader fishing industry and all lovers of Aussie seafood.

He said decision-makers sitting in their Brisbane-based ivory towers had turned their backs on a genuine and honest industry, and on common sense.

“The people of Queensland can now thank the Premier and her ‘Anti-Fisheries Minister’ for making sure they can no longer go to the fish and chip shop or walk to their favourite seafood shop and purchase a piece of local, wild-caught mackerel,” he said.

“Since 2021 the commercial fishing sector has strongly and universally disagreed with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ claims that the Spanish Mackerel fishery has declined to an unsustainable biomass,” Mr Katter said.

“These concerns were supported by multiple independent scientific reviews.

“Anyone worth a grain of salt who has a foot on the ground would know that it has been a bumper mackerel season.

“People who have been out on the water for 40 years or more have said, ‘We have never seen more Spanish mackerel in the water.’”

Commercial fisherman and owner of NQ Marina Fresh Seafoods and Lounds Fresh Seafoods, Col Lounds, said the way the Spanish Mackerel fishery had been managed was a debacle.

“Two scientists conducted an independent review and disagreed with the 2021 stock assessment and that report has been ignored,” Mr Lounds said.

“In August, Queensland Fisheries gave us in the industry an undertaking to review the whole process in 2024, but they have since back peddled on that and the next stock assessment will not take place until 2026; by that time there won’t be any commercial fishers left because it’s too long to be commercially and financially unviable.

“One local fisher here normally catches 10-12 tonnes of Spanish Mackerel, he’s in his 70s and it is his absolute passion. Now he can catch three tonnes. That doesn’t even cover the fuel, insurance and maintenance needed to take the boat out.

“Most of these operations are family affairs and it truly is the end of an era.”

KAP Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said this week’s disallowance motion was the last opportunity for the State’s elected representatives to stand up for commercial Spanish Mackerel fishers.

“Previously the industry as a whole was permitted to take about 600 tonne per year of Spanish Mackerel, they were catching on average 300 tonnes, or about half of that quota,” Mr Dametto said.

“Roughly half of the Spanish Mackerel catch was coming out of the Latitude 19 area, which is located directly off the Hinchinbrook electorate so this hits very close to home and has shut down the lives and industries of people in my electorate that I care deeply about.”

“It’s now unviable for those families to continue to fish and the impact will spread to consumers, whether it be tourists or mums and dads, they’ll pay the price.

“Fish and chips used to be an affordable take away option for Aussie families; now it’s going to become a delicacy of the rich thanks to Labor’s attack on commercial fishing.

“With the LNP voting in support of this disallowance motion, the industry should now be seeking a commitment from the Opposition to repeal these regulations if they were to take office after the October 2024 election.

“KAP will continue to advocate for the rights of commercial fishers in Queensland.

“We still have a fight on our hands with the gillnet fishers in the Gulf as well as a bill currently before the house aimed at implementing even further reforms under the misconceived Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027.”

KAP Hill MP Shane Knuth said the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments had blatantly sold out the Australian people.

“This decision has nothing to do with science or what’s good for the industry and the fishery,” he said.

“The State Government is under some sort of illusion that UNESCO and WWF are godlike agencies who see and know everything that happens on the other side of the world.

“It is a gutless display of pandering to these overseas interests whose only goal is to shut down our fishing industry, while destroying generational family commercial fishing outfits and attacking recreational fishers.”