Another blow for seafood industry

Trawler fishermen fear for their future after the release of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve plan.
Trawler fishermen fear for their future after the release of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve plan. Mike Knott

BUNDABERG fishermen are outraged over the release of draft plans for the proposed Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, fearing it will spell the demise of the local seafood industry.

The 989,842sq m reserve, which would be the largest marine park in the world, extends from Ashmore Reef in far north Queensland down to waters east of Bundaberg.

The proposed Coral Sea marine reserve would be completely off limits to trawler boats and longliners, which commercial fisherman Paul Grunske says will hurt the local seafood industry.

"It's just another kick in the ribs for the seafood industry," he said.

"It'll mean consumers will be restrained in their ability to obtain locally sourced seafood."

Mr Grunske said, should the plans be approved, it would further diminish the industry's profitability.

"The slack will be taken up by inferior imports in countries that have a progressive fisheries policy," Mr Grunske said.

He believes the proposed marine park was unnecessary and the decision to release draft plans was "ill informed".

"There's a very token tourism industry in the Coral Sea," he said.

"I did a trip there last year and we did not see a single boat in 10 days."

Federal Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said he was alarmed by the speedy release of the draft plan by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke on Friday.

"I wasn't expecting this before Christmas," he said.

"There is only so much you can ask an industry to endure before you break its back."

Mr Neville said Bundaberg and Hervey Bay once had about 80 fishing trawlers each.

"The figure is now well under 30," he said.

A public information session will be held in Hervey Bay over the coming weeks, before the consultation period closes on February 24 next year.

Topics:  fisheries fisherman industry seafood

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