Fishing community facing uncertain future as deadline looms
AS MAJOR industry reforms draw near, Wide Bay fishers hold grave fears for their future.
Burnett Heads couple Graham and Margaret Stevenson have been part of the commercial fishing industry for 48 years.
They fear their livelihood might not be sustainable if proposed changes to fishing quotas come into effect.
The Stevensons are not alone, with concerns for the Fraser Coast's fishing and seafood industries heightening as the deadline looms for submissions to a discussion paper outlining significant fishing quota changes.
LNP Shadow Minister for Fisheries Tony Perrett has accused the State Government of no longer listening to industry.
"Under the proposed changes listed in the released discussion paper, quota changes to certain fisheries species will see allowable take reduced to well below business viability for many fishers," Mr Perrett said.
"Generational fishing businesses and jobs are being whipped away due to Labor arbitrarily squeezing them out, by reducing their quota to unsustainable levels.
"All these changes are being imposed on fishers without a cent of compensation."
Graham, a net fisher, agreed, saying his quota allocation would hurt his bottom line.
Margaret said they were both concerned about what the future might hold.
"It appears the industry hasn't really been listened to," she said.
Mr Perrett said the changes would not only impact on the commercial fishing community, but on the availability of local seafood as well.
"It doesn't take a genius to realise if there is less available local seafood to meet demand then imports from overseas will increase," he said.
"Put simply, there will be less Queensland seafood and more imports in your local supermarket."
Mr Perrett said while there was a strong possibility the price of seafood would rise because of the changes, his main concern was the likelihood businesses and customers would no longer have access to local seafood.
But Fisheries Minister Mark Furner hit back at claims from the State Opposition that changes to Queensland's fishing regulations will damage the industry.
Mr Furner said the former LNP Government had originally started the reform process with its 2014 report, known as the MRAG report.
"The LNP then tried to hide the report from Queenslanders because it does not have the courage to do what's necessary to build a legacy of a sustainable fishery for our children and grandchildren," Mr Furner said.
"In contrast, the Palaszczuk Government released the report and has developed, consulted on and fully funded a 10-year program of reform to give Queenslanders a world-class fisheries system.
"Tony Perrett's myths about the impacts of quotas are refuted by the LNP's own MRAG report.
"Mr Perrett's comments are lazy, ill-informed sniping and they do the fishing industry, and indeed all Queenslanders, a massive disservice."
Mr Furner said he had met with the Queensland Seafood Industry Association and other commercial fishing representatives on many occasions to discuss reforms and how to support the commercial fishing industry.
"I highly value their contributions," he said.
The public has until tomorrow to make a submission to the State Government's discussion paper on the proposed changes.