Opinion: Bigger commercial catch good news for whom?

ABC Rural has reported on the start of the Top End commercial fishing season, quoting the Barramundi Licensing Committee excitement about it being an “exceptional” year for catching threadfin salmon.

The Committee’s Peter Mundy said that the people using his licence (whoever they are) had taken 12 tonnes of salmon fillets and 10 tonnes of barra fillets in the season’s first month. He noted that normally it would be 5 tonnes of salmon and 10 tonnes of barra. The salmon brought around $8 per kilo for whole fish, compared to $6 per kilo at the same time the year before.

Unlike this year, the 2013 season was considered to be a “shocker”, with 390 tonnes of barra commercially harvested, down about 50 per cent on the previous year. Most people consider this was due to the small 2012/13 wet season, and recreational barra catches were very low in most run-off dependent systems.

All this raises a few questions about broader fisheries management, I reckon.

With regard to 2013, when the low rainfall predicts it’s very likely going to be a “slow” season, does it really make sense to still allow the commercial harvest of 390 tonnes of barra? Given what pre-booked anglers would have paid to get to the Territory, and what they’d spend while they were there, wouldn’t it have made sense to have somehow “cancelled” the 2013 barra quota and left as many fish as possible for paying visitors?

I would have hated to have been a guide in 2013 trying to explain to my highly expectant fee-paying clients why there were so few barra to be caught. And while I’m no one sided admirer of the USA, I just can’t see the same thing happening there to one of its iconic sport fisheries.

Now the 2013/14 wet was a good one. Fish numbers should be improving, although by exactly how much is still a bit hard to tell just yet. But from the catch records quoted above, there are (or maybe were) lots of threadfin about, and they’re just as welcomed by visiting anglers as barra. So does it really make sense to take record tonnage commercial catches early in the fishing season at a princely $8 per kilo? Or might it have been a bit more sensible (in fisheries management terms) to put in some tough quotas, even just in the short term, to let salmon (and barra) stocks really bounce back right across the NT to give both visiting and resident anglers a couple of bumper seasons?

Maybe I’m missing something, but the ABC Rural’s “good news” commercial catch stories don’t look too good for lodge operators, guides, tackle shop assistants, fuel outlet owners, hospitality workers, taxi drivers, regional airline staff, anglers and fishing writers … at least from my perspective.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.