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Fishing industry under threat if reef not protected

THE head of Queensland's seafood industry has warned that the state's fishing industry could be under threat if problems in Gladstone Harbour are repeated along the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association executive Scott Wiseman was among several witnesses before a Senate inquiry hearing held in Brisbane on Thursday.

The inquiry is looking into the merits of a Greens bill which could make the World Heritage Committee's recommendations on the protection of the reef commonwealth law.

Mr Wiseman said irrespective of the cause of fish disease problems in Gladstone Harbour, the local fishing industry had been "decimated".

He told the committee the local industry was forced to move to other fishing grounds off the state's coast following the closure of the harbour in 2011.

"The industry has been damaged beyond the point of repair - incomes have had to be sought from other fishing areas," he said.

Asked whether he was concerned about any possible future impacts from other planned port developments on the state's fishing industry, he said "Absolutely".

"If Gladstone is any model to go by, the fishing industry will be dead - there'll be no prawns at Christmas, no mud crabs on tables," he said.

While scientific opinion on the cause of problems in the harbour is split, the state government's response to the fish disease problems has been found lacking.

State government testing of fish and marine life samples completed during and after the disease outbreak failed to include at least one known contaminant in the region.

However, authorities have repeatedly said the problems were largely caused by the 2011 floods, and could not be conclusively linked to the dredging program.

A submission from the Gladstone Ports Corporation to the inquiry said the impacts of the current dredging program were "not significant in terms of environmental quality and impacts on marine ecology".

That submission also said the port was acutely conscious of its responsibilities to the community and for minimising impacts on the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding environment.

The committee is expected to report its findings on the bill to the Senate in mid-June.

Topics:  fishing industry, gladstone harbour, great barrier reef, queensland seafood industry


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