Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Detrimental Move For Commercial Fishing

Government Moves To Ban Gillnet Fishing

By Bronte Hodge

The Federal Government has made the move to ban commercial gillnet fishing, a decision that will drastically impact over 90 licensed fishermen in the region.

Andrew Willcox Federal Member for Dawson said the decision came without consultation and allowed no rebuttal from affected fishermen, stating the supposed dangers that gillnets pose to marine life as reason behind the ban.

Willcox has addressed Parliament, voicing his concerns for commercial fishermen in the region.

“In June, a joint media release from Federal and Queensland Labor have said they’re going to ban gillnet fishing, no consultation with the community, no consultation with our fishermen, and short time frames! This is going to happen by the end of this year,” he explained.

Willcox believes this decision has a flow on effect that will harm chandlery and fishing supply stores, plus many more marine associated businesses.

“The boatbuilders, the repairers, they’re all going to go out of business. The outboard sales and service, going out of business,” Mr Willcox said.

Banning gillnets in Australia means that rather than being able to purchase locally sourced fish, consumers will only have the option of imported fish, or selected breeds that continue to be locally sourced but at an exorbitant price point.

“The wild caught fishing industry in Queensland deserves to be protected and deserves to be supported! The fishing industry is sustainable, and the fishery is in good condition!” said Mr Willcox.

For Kev Collins, owner-operator of Fish D’Vine Restaurant and Rum Bar in Airlie Beach, this ban would detrimentally impact his business.

“People travel to the Whitsundays and North Queensland for our seafood.

“This ban will mean we have no point of difference to other big cities,” he said.

“This indiscriminately disconnected decision will take the livelihood of hundreds of commercial fishermen, and dramatically spike the market price for the remaining available fish, and ultimately takes away from Queensland tourism.”

According to Mr Collins, in the 17 years since the fishermen have been required to remain with their nets, only seven dugongs have been killed, versus the 8.5 thousand killed over the same time period, in traditional Indigenous hunting that is allowed through the Native Title Act.

The gillnets in question operate at least 60 kilometres away from the Great Barrier Reef, and with the fishermen required to remain with their nets while in the water, the danger to marine life, particularly turtles and dugongs, is drastically reduced.

For these reasons, many people in the local fishing industry do not believe gillnet fishing should be banned.

Andrew Willcox, Federal Member for Dawson, fights for local gillnet fishers. Photo: Supplied

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