Trawlerman sues port authority

A GLADSTONE fisherman could be forced to sell his home and prawn trawler due to destruction of the reputation of the region's seafood industry on the back of disease outbreaks and port developments in the Central Queensland harbour.

A signed affidavit by professional trawler man Devlon Stuart Wise was filed with the Rockhampton District Court last week, as part of a class action taken by Trevor Falzon against the Gladstone Ports Corporation and the chief executive of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

His affidavit revealed the dire state of his business after a fishing ban was imposed in Gladstone Harbour last October.

Mr Wise, who has worked in the industry since he was 15 years old, said that in mid-2011, his banana prawn catches started to drop dramatically and had not recovered.

He wrote: "Over the past six or seven months banana prawn volumes have collapsed.

"I do not recall ever experiencing times as bad as this, apart from a short period after the oil spill in Gladstone Harbour in 2006."

Catch figures Mr Wise submitted reveal his catch volumes fell from an average of more than 100kg each day in July last year to less than 10kg a day during December 2011 and January this year.

He wrote: "The other problem I face is that there has been significant disease present in the Gladstone harbour since mid-2011.

"Every time I spill my nets on the sorting tray I find diseased animals.

"As a result of the low catch volume together with the disease I have observed in prawns it is not viable for me to continue operating my trawling business."

Mr Wise wrote that the demand for seafood from Gladstone had dried up, partly on the back of "marine deaths and disease observed by locals and reported in the media".

He wrote: "My income stream has dried up and I am unable to meet my living expenses or my business expenses.

"I am selling my house and am also trying to sell my fishing boat as it is costly to maintain."

The case will be heard in Rockhampton next month.

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