Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) Mackay director and owner of Mackay Reef Fish Supplies David Caracciolo believes the net-free zone fish numbers collected by the MRFA are being twisted to suit the needs of recreational fisherman.
Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) Mackay director and owner of Mackay Reef Fish Supplies David Caracciolo believes the net-free zone fish numbers collected by the MRFA are being twisted to suit the needs of recreational fisherman. Kieran Moran

Commercial fishers claim net-free data 'twisted'

FIGHTING for a bite in the Mackay fishing industry is getting tougher, with the commercial fishing industry claiming net-free fishing zone data is being twisted in the favour of recreational fisherman.

In the Mackay region the net-free fishing zone has been in place for the past 18 months and extends from St Helens Beach in the north to Cape Hillsborough to the south.

The Mackay Recreational Fishing Alliance (MRFA) have been conducting surveys with fishers who fish within the net-free fishing zone for the past 18 months, with claims recent data suggests there have been bigger and more plentiful catches since the closure of net-fishing.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) Mackay director and owner of Mackay Reef Fish Supplies David Caracciolo said there was great concern within the industry about how the data was being collected and the validity of MRFA claims.

"The MRFA is claiming that since they started collecting data catches have increase both in quantity and in size," Mr Caracciolo said.

"However, the first data they collected was towards the end of the estuary fishing season when most of the estuary fish weren't biting or had left the region due to seasonal conditions.

"So to make those claims that there are more fish is true because it's the season right now to catch fish in the estuaries but none of that data is collected in a scientific way and despite their claims commercial fishers are the only stakeholders that are giving information to the government to manage these fisheries."

A spokesperson for Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said the Mackay net-free zones were introduced via fisheries regulations in November 2015 and data collection was compiled by Queensland Fisheries independent of the MRFA.

"Information is collected from fishers who fished inside and outside the net-free zones on how long they fished for, the size and numbers of retained fish and numbers of fish released," the spokesperson said.

"A report on the first 18 months' results will be available in mid-2017 and will start to show what differences are evident following the establishment of the net-free zones.

"However, it is expected it will take a few years to see clear trends, as the area has only been closed to netting for just over a year and there are natural variations due to seasons and weather."

 

Mackay Recreational Fishing Alliance president John Bennett believes fish numbers and sizes have increased significantly since the introduction of the net free zones in Mackay.
Mackay Recreational Fishing Alliance president John Bennett believes fish numbers and sizes have increased significantly since the introduction of the net free zones in Mackay.

MRFA president John Bennett said the data the group is collecting was not scientific but rather just data about the current fish species, sizes and amounts in the net-free zone.

"Our data is collected independent of Queensland Fisheries but I do expect our data to be similar to the government's," he said.

"We ask recreational fishers to fill out forms on their catches so I'm not sure why Mr Caracciolo would think the data could be skewed.

"I acknowledge the first data we collected before the net-free zone was introduced was during the off season but data is being collected at the same time each year to get a true reading.

"I believe the QSIA are living in fear of the success of these net-free zones because it could trigger more net-free zones and that's not in the interests of the QSIA."

Queensland Fisheries had conducted another survey exploring recreational fishers' satisfaction and expectations of fishing experiences in the Mackay net-free zone.

It was completed in December 2016 and a report on results is expected to be released in April 2017.



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