Fishing compensation offer won't settle difficult dispute

NOBODY expects the issue of compensation for Gladstone's commercial fishermen to settle down with Wednesday's announcement.

There is too much emotion and money at stake for the controversy to die off easily.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation has come up with a compensation model for fishermen impacted by construction of LNG projects on Gladstone Harbour (see story here).

That sounds great, but it falls short of what the industry believes it deserves.

There is a big difference between the basis of GPC's scheme and the basis of commercial fishers' claims.

Fishermen say compensation must to take into account damage to water quality caused by dredging.

They say it has reduced fish stocks in the harbour, and that should be the basis of financial compensation.

On the other side of the argument, GPC argues the LNG developments, including dredging, have not damaged water quality and, therefore, have not damaged fish health.

For that reason, GPC says compensation for commercial fishermen needs to be based on their physical loss of access to certain areas.

That is a massive difference of opinion. The two points of view are irreconcilable.

We haven't heard much lately from the commercial fishing industry about the dredging project.

Privately and publicly, some in the fishing industry are gutted by what they believe is a slap in the face by government and big industry.

But GPC is confident the science of water quality has settled in its favour.

This issue caused a massive split in the Gladstone community in late 2011.

It has quietened down, but it will never go away.

Even when the legal process is done and dusted, people in Gladstone will whisper about this ugly chapter for decades to come.

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