Ballina trawlers moored in the Richmond River.
Ballina trawlers moored in the Richmond River.

Trawlermen's 'damage' claim a shock

LOCAL fisher Phil Hilliard says media reports that trawling is environmentally destructive lack an accurate scientific basis and could be a negotiating ploy to increase government payouts.

Five trawler operators from Nelson Bay declared their industry destructive and called on the Federal Government to expand a proposed marine reserve while compensating fishers for their loss of livelihood.

Mr Hilliard, the president of the Ballina Fishermen's Co-op, says he was surprised to see the report and says he can't imagine NSW trawler operators saying such a thing.

"I don't know where these five fishermen sit (financially)," he said.

"They may be thinking 'what's the quickest way out of here' because the government is willing to buy out fishermen, although I understand there is not a lot of money - only $150,000 per zone and over five trawlers that's going to give them nothing.

"We've had such a concentration of research - and it consistently comes back saying that soft-bottom trawling is not detrimental to the ocean floor or marine habitat.

"They're describing what they do in the North Sea off England; there they've got these massive chains with weights on the bottom whereas our guys have a light chain with floats that just rolls across the bottom and only the net touches the seabed.

"I mean that's what they use down at Nelson Bay which is why I wondered if someone's gone out and found out about this North Sea practice and tried to attribute it to Australia."

NSW Greens environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said even trawler operators see the writing on the wall and the government should take heed.

"Trawling is nothing less than land clearing with bulldozers and chains at the bottom of the ocean. It kills fish and destroys habitat indiscriminately. It has no place in a marine park, she said.

"If trawling is allowed to continue in key sensitive areas we are going to see a rapid decline of marine life.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Environment Department said the department was consulting the public on the proposed eastern region marine reserves and any compensation to fishers would on a case-by-case basis.



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