Commercial fishing is the only job Brett Fuchs has ever known, but the Hervey Bay fisher says plans to increase no-fish zones in the Great Sandy Marine Park will be enough to sink his business, as retailers predict seafood lovers will wear the cost of limited supplies.
- Queensland fishers fear they will be out of business if no-fish zones are increased in the Great Sandy Marine Park
- Seafood retailers say consumers could be paying more in the lead-up to Christmas if the restrictions go ahead
- The Queensland government will be offering financial compensation to businesses impacted
The Queensland government has proposed to expand the green zone by almost 9 per cent in the 6,000-square-kilometre marine park that stretches from Baffle Creek to Double Island Point.
Commercial fishers would be forced to remove large gill nets and ring nets from the water.
“There’s nothing left for us,” Mr Fuchs said.
“If this plan goes through, it’s just going to be a complete shutdown of commercial fishing in Hervey Bay, Wide Bay, Bundaberg, Tin Can Bay, Maryborough.”
Mr Fuchs supplies prawns, whiting and a range of local seafood across the state. He’s worried the proposed changes will be the end of the family business.
“[It’s] 90 to 95 per cent of my income,” he said.
“So 30 years of my life just equates to nothing with this government.
“My uncle, my father, myself, and now my son [have all worked in the business] … it’s just not good enough.”
Seafood prices tipped to increase
In Brisbane, seafood retailer Warren List says up to 80 per cent of his product comes from the Hervey Bay region.
“Prawn, crab, fish … we don’t want to source any overseas product. We want to keep it from Queensland so we can sell a better-quality product,” Mr List said.
He fears if the proposed changes go ahead, consumers will be paying more in the lead-up to Christmas because there will be less seafood available.
“It’s not going to be a good thing for [customers]. They will have to pay extra and it means we might not sell as much as we normally do,” Mr List said.
“If we can’t get the seafood, we can’t operate.”
The marine park is home to 22 threatened species, 23 habitat types and two areas of international significance.
The Department of Environment and Science (DES) said since 2019, it had spoken with the community, First Nations peoples, councils and scientists to determine that increasing green zones by 9 per cent was the most reasonable way to secure the long-term sustainability of the park.
Community consultation for the proposed zoning plan has been open for almost a month, with more than 700 responses received.
“I think we’ve already landed on a point in time where a lot of the changes would be fairly minor,” said Queensland’s minister for the environment Meaghan Scanlan.
“Although you need to let the consultation process run its course properly and we’ll consider all of that feedback and then make a final decision.”
Financial packages available
The state government said financial packages would be offered to people in the seafood industry whose businesses were affected by the changes.
“We have a proposal around compensating those directly impacted, but also on some other parts of the chain that will be impacted as well,” Ms Scanlan said.
“We want to work through the details before we make a financial announcement of the package … but I can assure people there is compensation available that is fair.”
But the local fishing sector is sceptical that it will be enough to cover the cost of an entire livelihood.
“My boats, gears, sheds, nets and everything with it, I’d be looking at well over $2 million,” Mr Fuchs said.
“I’ve worked hard five, six, seven days a week for the past 30 years to accumulate that and I might as well burn that now because it’s useless.”
“We’ve got bills to pay like anyone else … house repayments, car repayments, living expenses,” said Tin Can Bay fisherman Mark Alexander.
“The day they stop me from fishing is the day it starts hurting.”
Community consultation closes on Sunday, October 23.
The government said it aimed to release final zoning changes as quickly as possible after the consultation process.
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