Concern over net-free proposal

KAREN Collard wants to see recreational and commercial fishermen enjoying Capricorn Coast waterways harmoniously.

The president of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association yesterday headed a meeting with more than 80 of the region's commercial fishermen to discuss the Palaszczuk Government's proposed net-free zones.

The policy, announced during the election campaign, would see commercial fishing banned from three areas - Corio Bay (inclusive of the Keppel Islands), Fitzroy River and the Fitzroy Delta.

At the time, Rockhampton MP (and now Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) Bill Byrne said the measure would allow the region to prosper as a tourism centre.

He said the intention was to develop the region as the top east coast recreational charter and guided fishing destination.

Ms Collard said the areas within net-free zones would lose the economic benefits of commercial fishermen. The proposal includes a $10 million compensation package to buy back commercial fishing licences.

Ms Collard said this was a "band-aid remedy", with a reduction in commercial fishing diminishing local seafood available to Queenslanders.

While Ms Collard said the association supported the use of waterways by recreational fishermen and charter boats, she said keeping commercial fishing jobs was vital.

"We already have definite jobs in the fishing industry," she said. "The pretence of closing down fishing people on the hope that there's going to be tourism expansion doesn't seem logical.

"When you review why tourists actually come to Queensland, a recreational fishing experience is not high on their list."

Ms Collard said 70% of seafood eaten in Australia was imported, with net-free zones increasing the pressure to outsource.

She said when importing seafood, it was important to consider how ecological sustainable the source fisheries were.

Yesterday, Mr Byrne said the government "is progressing its election commitment to establish three net-free fishing areas".

"The policy is clear and will be implemented but the timing and how it will be done is yet to be finalised," he said.

"Before any decisions occur, the government will be closely consulting with industry.

"We are working to gather the views of all interested stakeholders before moving forward."

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