FINAL DAYS: Last chance for a say on Great Sandy Marine Park
THERE are just 48 hours left to have your say on the future of fishing zones in the Great Sandy Marine Park.
The discussion paper has been a source of contention between recreational and commercial fishermen who share Fraser Coast waters.
Since the topic was highlighted on the front page two weeks ago, it has generated more letters to the editor than any other issue since the council amalgamation debate was introduced.
The majority of these have been from recreational anglers who insist there has been a notable depletion in local fishing stocks.
Hervey Bay commercial fisherman Brett Fuchs maintains his data shows fishing in the marine park area has been as sustainable as ever and there has been a 30 per cent reduction in commercial fishing since the marine park's introduction 10 years ago.
Among them is River Heads Fishing Association President Huxley Althaus, who said there were far fewer fish in the region's waters compared to as recently as three years ago.
"You can still get a feed of fish, but you've got to work really hard and travel a lot of distance to catch them compared to the heyday of fishing,” Mr Althaus told the Chronicle.
"We used to be able to catch our feed of fish outside Torquay and Scarness back in the day, but no longer.”
The catalogue of concerns detailed in angler submissions draws comparisons in catch rates since the 1970s and warns of impacts on crab and turtle numbers along with loss in tourism revenue resulting from reputational damage to recreational fishing chances.
The Department of Environment and Science is reviewing the existing zoning plan, which is subordinate legislation to the Marine Parks Act 2004.
It was remade with minor administrative amendments in 2017 to ensure existing management arrangements were maintained while the review was carried out.
The current review process involves the public release of a discussion paper to inform the development of a draft zoning plan, which will be released for further public consultation prior to a final plan being developed.
Scott Mitchell, President of the Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance, is adamant the solution is "simple”.
"We're calling for the designated Great Sandy area to be removed under the review, as it does not exist in any other marine park in the country,” Mr Mitchell said.
"This will only affect commercial netting and beam trawling in the yellow conservation zone area.
Mr Mitchell has been a long-term advocate for changes to the zoning plan of the marine park.
He said fishers across the region agreed there were depleted fish stocks in Fraser Coast waters over the past few years.
"Looking at what's happening in Rockhampton and the Fitzroy River: recreational fishing tourism has gone through the roof,” Mr Mitchell said.
"It's proof the industry will provide the maximum economic yield and is worth tenfold what the commercial sector brings to the community.
"We're losing that opportunity because fish stocks are depleted.”
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch visited the Fraser Coast region earlier this week meeting with community groups about the review, saying it was a good opportunity for people to submit their ideas on the future of the Marine Park.
"Your views will inform the developing of a revised zoning plan, which will go out for public consultation once the draft is prepared,” Ms Enoch said.
Fraser Coast Tourism and Events general manager Martin Simons said they were interested in the conservation of the marine park, which is regarded as one of the most pristine environments in the world.
"Our tourism operators recognise the conservation significance of the region and the need for sustainable practice,” Mr Simons said.
"The industry led the development of responsible whale watching and the commercial code of conduct adopted by the Hervey Bay whale watch fleet is one of the most advanced in the world.”