Pandering to UNESCO, not science, behind gillnet bans: Katter

Mar 1, 2024

The Queensland State Government’s determination to implement gillnet-free fishing zones in the Gulf of Carpentaria has no scientific basis and will bring economic devastation to communities in the Gulf, Robbie Katter said.

“Queensland Fisheries has failed to furnish any analysis or evidence demonstrating the significant and irreversible environmental harm caused by net fishing. Consequently, there exists a considerable degree of uncertainty regarding whether net fishing poses a serious or irreversible threat to the environment.

“The extreme response by the minister to the perceived environment threat far exceeds what is required to manage the Gulf fisheries sustainably.

“Given the social and economic impact of the net bans, the government’s evidential threshold to implement such dramatic measures needed to be considerably more robust, and backed by consensus from within the scientific fraternity.

“The risk of net fishing to the environment is low in the context of the many other more significant environmental risks facing the Gulf of Carpentaria, including over-fishing by international vessels.

“However, none of that matters because the decision by the Fisheries Minister to implement gillnet bans is not related to the science or to the actual threats to the reef.

“The area already has numerous closed and restricted areas as well as extensive Commonwealth Marine Parks, National Parks and special purpose zones, particularly surrounding Mornington Island.

“The government announced they were considering extending gillnet bans to the Gulf at the same time as they were proposing bans on the east coast fishery, which was done in response to a threat by UNESCO to list the Great Barrier Reef as endangered.

“UNESCO’s subsequent decision to not list the reef was hailed by the State and Federal governments as a vindication of their decision to ban gillnets on the GBR.

“There is no clearer picture that there’s a political motive behind Queensland Fisheries’ decision to follow-through with similar bans in the Gulf.”

The Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP said communities in his electorate would suffer economic and social devastation as a result of the government’s determination to commence the gillnet bans.

“Eighty percent of the Gulf’s commercial fishing sector, which supports untold local jobs and injects significant economic activity into the region, will be destroyed overnight with the confirmation of the bans.

“The economic fallout for the immediate fisherman, deck hands, engineers, unload crews, truck drivers and freight companies, cold stores, fish mongers, fish and chip shops, restaurants, will be felt from the Gulf all the way to Rockhampton.

“The epicentre of that fallout will be Karumba, which is a town built essentially on commercial fishing.”

Mr Katter said the fishing industry is one of the key employers of First Australians in the area.

“The jobs pay well and has a low barrier to entry.  I don’t know how you replace that.”