Jun 14, 2021


Jun 14, 2021

Katter’s Australian Party MPs are calling on the Palaszczuk Labor Government to relax onerous rules around shark harvesting in a bid to save fledgling fisheries, including the prized Spanish Mackerel.

KAP Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto urged Queenslanders to “save a Mackerel, eat a shark” as was the usual practice of years gone by when flake (shark meat) was the staple purchase at fish and chip shops.

He said Queenslanders had been progressively forced to comply with restrictive shark fishing laws, which include a 1.5m limit on catches and one catch per trip rule for recreational fishers.

A number of species are considered “no-take”, including all hammerhead varieties.

“We have been conditioned in recent years to think it’s wrong to catch sharks, but traditionally it was what was found in most fish and chip shops,” Mr Dametto said.  

“Over the last 10 to 15 we’ve been pressured to move away from it and what this has done is seen the shark population skyrocket.

“This has then put an increased burden on the Spanish Mackerel, and likely other fisheries, to the point where they are at risk.

“Any one who you talk to out on the water – it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to recreational fisherman, those who operate commercially or our tourism sector – will tell you shark numbers have exploded.”

Mr Dametto said the current restrictions around shark fishing needed to be reconsidered with a view of further opening up the fishery.  

KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie said shark predation was a growing problem in Queensland waters, with fisherman reporting sharks are taking up to 70 per cent of their catch.

“Sharks were a good sustainable and reliable food source for us in the past and we have spent too long listening to groups like UNESCO and the WWF who have if not prohibited, inhibited our ability to catch sharks as a food source,” Mr Katter said.

“We at the KAP believe it is now necessary for the Government to take immediately action because, one way or another, they have dropped the ball here and the sustainability of our fisheries is at risk as a result.”

Mr Katter’s comments follow the introduced of a new, and potentially-flawed, biomass testing model introduced by Fisheries Queensland this year that has suggested the state’s Spanish Mackerel stocks were now depleted.  

According to the new model Queensland’s Spanish Mackerel unfished biomass is presently sitting at 17 per cent, which is below the 20 per cent threshold that would see the fishery closed.

This is despite the commercial and recreational fishing industry never having reached the quota limits set by Queensland Fisheries since 2004.

The limits change each year, but in the 2018-19 year a total of 578 tonnes of Spanish Mackerel were allowed to be caught commercially and recreationally in Queensland.

Spanish Mackerel is primarily consumed in North Queensland, and is a staple delicacy in local fish and chip shops.

The abrupt closure of such a prized fishery would result in multi-million dollar losses for the catching sector and post-harvest businesses and a have a severe domino effect on the broader North Queensland economy.

It’s understood a government-appointed working group plans to meet in the coming weeks to discuss a peer review of the original science used to underpin the new method that will either support or oppose Fisheries Queensland’s status with regards to the Spanish Mackerel stocks.

George Clarke owns Magnetic Island fish and chip shop Stuffed on Seafood and buys six tonnes of Spanish Mackerel each year.

He said if he can no longer get access to the prized product, he won’t have a business and his 25 employees will be out of work.

“Not only would it be me, it would be hundreds of other fish and chip shops and restaurants that would be unviable to operate,” he said.

“Fishermen will be out of a job and their half a million to million-dollar boats will be tied up and sit there gathering barnacles.”