New net-free zones stun commercial fishermen

THE new State Labor Government has committed to closing three areas to commercial fishermen by introducing net-free zones in central and north Queensland.

Those zones are Trinity Bay near Cairns, St Helens Beach north of Mackay and the area from Yeppoon south to the mouth of the Fitzroy River.

Ten million dollars have been set aside for the scheme.

The policy was announced by the Labor Party just days before the election and it has caught the commercial fishing industry by surprise.

>> Read Labor's plan for fishing here

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Karen Collard said there was no consultation before the announcement and the policy was unfair.

"It's a communal resource to be shared by all Queenslanders," Ms Collard said.

"No area should be permanently closed off like this.

"It's a big portion of the coast to be closed to commercial fishing."

However, the net-free zones will stimulate recreational fishing tourism.

A spokesperson for the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said it was a policy that had been developed in opposition.

The spokesperson also said any further developments in the policy area would include consultation with stakeholders.

Do you support a restriction on commercial fishing?

This poll ended on 21 March 2015.

Yes, it's important to make sure fish stocks are sustainable - 51%

No. Commercial fishermen are careful with what they take - 12%

Yes. It means more people can enjoy fishing in our region - 19%

No. There are enough restrictions in place - 15%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The Queensland commercial fishing industry is worth $250 million per year, according to Labor's own figures.

Now, $10 million has been committed to the buyout of commercial fishing activities in these areas on top of the $9 million already spent by the LNP government buying back licences in 2013.

Ms Collard said there had been a push from both sides of politics over the past decade to reduce net fishing along the Queensland coast and the consequences could be dire for the industry.

"At the moment we are already importing about 70% of the seafood we consume from places like New Zealand and Asia.

"They are from (fish farms) and you can't guarantee the production methods in those ponds are up to the same standards as here in Australia.

"The real concern is the boost we will see in imports, on top of that 70%."

Grab a copy of Wednesday's Observer print edition for more on this story

Topics:  commercial fishing fishing gladstone harbour outdoor-living tourism

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