Report blows whistle on overfishing

A group of concerned North Queensland-based fishers has released a lengthy report that documents concerns of failing fish stocks and threats to the region’s marine life.

“Until recently we had focussed locally on the falling numbers of grey mackerel and other inshore fish in the Douglas Region” said Network for Sustainable Fishing coordinator, David Cook, “However, as the NSF expanded, it became very clear that passions run high the whole length of the Marine Park, the problem is all along the coast, so we got together through the internet and shared experiences and ideas.”

The Network comprises recreational, commercial, retired commercial and charter fishers and others from Rockhampton to Cape York. As well as concerns of overfishing occurring in the region, the group lament the bycatch of dugong and turtles that appears to be a regular occurrence. All members have one thing in common: a serious concern for the sustainability of fish stocks targeted by some present day netting practices.

“Over the last two months there has been a constant flurry of NSF emails from Rockhampton to Cooktown.” said Cook, a qualified coastal fisheries manager with extensive overseas experience. “The result is a 62 page report that carefully documents most of our concerns and also explains to the lay person some fisheries management science that seems to have been overlooked up until now”.

The document, available for download HERE contains a list of recommendations for early intervention and is being sent to the Premier, the Federal Minister for Sustainability, local candidates for the federal election and other politicians with interests in sustainability, jobs and tourism.

Cook accepts there is some confusion in the public arena with the reef fishery as this appears healthy and very good catches can be made, “but there is a different lot of fish that live in our estuaries and inshore waters and these are the ones that have been hammered by the big netters – offshore netting in our inshore waters is unsustainable at current levels.

“We are losing our breeding schools of king salmon, queenfish, grunter, fingermark and now it’s almost impossible to catch a barramundi big enough to keep,” said Cook.

The NSF says it recognises the need for commercial fishing and providing fish for the table, but stipulates this must be over the long term, not just for short term profit.

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