LISTEN: Illegal net fishing fostering seafood black market
ILLEGAL net fishing in the Fitzroy River is fostering a local seafood black market.
That is according to Central Queensland fisherman Scott Lynch who said hefty fines for illegal net fishing were not deterring offenders.
Mr Lynch said professional fishermen were required to have a net endorsement and a licence to be able to use fishing nets in non-net-free zones but amateur fisherman were only allowed to use a 50 foot bait net of "about half inch mesh size" in non-net-free zones.
He said fishermen who did not follow the regulations were negatively impacting professional and other recreational fishermen.
"It affects everybody, it affects the recreational users that use the Fitzroy River for example as a leisure activity and it definitely affects the amount of fish in the system but it also does affect the professionals that are allowed to net other places in the area," he said.
"It affects them (because) if people are netting illegally and selling their fish on the black market then they're effectively taking food out of the professional fishermens' mouths.
"That's where it affects the professionals that do it for a living, they sometimes sell it to people who would normally buy them through a sales outlet they're buying them from someone cash in hand in the back of a pub."
Fishermen caught illegally net fishing could be slapped with fines of up to $30,000 but Mr Lynch said it was not enough to deter offenders.
"Unfortunately the fines don't really do justice, the fines don't really make up for what they're doing to other people's livelihoods and to the fishing base here," he said.
"We hear about people getting caught many times over the years and getting caught time and time again and then they get hit with a $10,000 fine. Obviously for them to keep doing it, the fines mustn't be enough of a deterrent."
Mr Lynch said he knew of at least two reported incidents of illegal net fishing in Rockhampton waters over the past few months but while it did not present a new struggle for professional and recreational fishermen, it was timely to remind the region of the impacts of illegal fishing.
"Once upon a time if Jack down the road was running an illegal net, they would just laugh and forget about it but nowadays with the political climate and the other net closures in the river people are taking more notice of illegal activity and reporting it," he said.
"If anyone sees people and they're concerned, especially in the net-free zone, if they see people netting, ring the fisheries hotline."
For more information about net fishing regulations visit www.daf.qld.gov.au.
To report unlawful fishing in Queensland, call the 24-hour Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.