MINISTER for Fisheries Mark Furner has been labelled the Minister for “Anti-Fisheries” by furious Katter’s Australia Party members who believe the fishing industry has been blindsided by the Queensland Government’s proposal to ban net fishing across eleven candidate areas.
KAP Leader Robbie Katter, alongside deputy leader Nick Dametto and member Shane Knuth, have called for Minister Furner to step down from his position following the sudden announcement that the Queensland Government’s Future Fisheries Taskforce plans to further restrict fishing activities in the region.
Last week, fisheries in Albatross Bay, Weipa, Mornington Island and all rivers and creeks in the Gulf all received the news.
Chairman of the Gulf of Carpentaria Commercial Fisherman’s Association David Wren said the Association was appalled by the proposed closures.
“The Gulf of Carpentaria fishers have been badly let down by the current fish managers elected to look after the fishing industry including not only the Gulf’s resources, but also the fishermen and fishing families that work in the Gulf,” Mr Wren said.
This shock announcement follows the Queensland Government’s recent decision to phase out gillnet fishing in certain waters off Australia’s eastern coast, responding to a UNESCO assessment.
While Mr Wren said the industry understands following the advice of UNESCO, he believes it does not consider the economic ramifications of the suggested closures.
“To suggest the blanket closing of all the rivers and creeks on the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, many of which already has restricted areas or closures, is the death knell for all of the N3 Barramundi Fishers in the Gulf,” he said.
“That is an economic fallout not just for the immediate fisherman but deck hands, engineers, unload crews, truck drivers and freight companies, cold stores, fish mongers, fish and chip shops, restaurants…the list is endless in the flow on effect.
“Without a doubt there will be a loss of jobs throughout those supply chains as the demand will not be there.”
Mr Wren believes the decision contradicts the State Government’s own view on job creation.
“The Government seems confused with its policies, on the one hand job creation and the other with this proposed ban (and) job losses – big losses in many of the Aboriginal communities that have no or very few job opportunities,” he said.
“This closure seems to fly in the face of the government’s own strategies.
“We believe Minister Furner has an agenda to, come what may, remove all commercial gillnet fishers and this UNESCO report gives him some ammunition to carry it out.”
Mr Katter accused Minister Furner, and his Department, of “unconscionable” conduct that would shut down the State’s fishing industry.
“This is absolutely disgraceful – the gillnet ban on the east-coast was bad enough, occurred without consultation and is predicated on politics and not practical reality,” he said.
“Now the government is claiming that the shutdown of commercial fishing in the Gulf through these new bans is necessary because the same protected animals who swim on the GBR could one day swim in the Gulf – it’s a farce.”
Mr Katter claims 80 per cent of the Gulf’s commercial fishing sector, which supports untold local jobs and injects significant economic activity into the region, would be destroyed overnight if the decision went ahead.
He said he feared Minister Furner, and his Labor colleagues, would not be happy until the wild caught seafood sector across the state was completely shut down.
Minister Furner has hit back at the statements made against him by the KAP and has asked that instead of engaging in “scaremongering and cheap political stunts”, Mr Katter should be supporting the government’s efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries remain for future generations.
“I reiterate again that no decision has been made at this point in time on any Gulf of Carpentaria fisheries closures,” he said.
“We will continue to engage with industry on sustainably managing the Gulf fisheries and other locations of high ecological value.”