According to an ABC news report this week recreational and commercial fishermen have accused each other of using death threats and intimidation tactics in a row over fishing rights in the Northern Territory.
The long-standing antagonism between the two factions has reportedly become nastybecause Fisheries Minister Kon Vatskalis is about to make a decision onwhether to close stretches of the Finniss River and Bynoe Harbour toprofessionals, the Northern Territory News reported.
Fishing guide Geoff Corry said his children’s lives had been threatened after he had photographed rare sawfish caught in professional gill nets. A friend of Corry’s had also received telephone threats after photographing commercial operations.
Corry told Fisho these incidents occured back in April but the issue has resurfaced due to the eminent announcement of the closures.
Corry confirmed he had seen commercial fishermen discard dead sawfish that had been captured in their nets and had heard of the dumping of excess barra fillets around the same time. Understandably he’s not opposed to the proposed commercial closures, which should ensure his livelihood.
“I was getting eighty to a hundred barra a day in early April … before they got in there [commercial netters].”
Corry added, “I’m the only one operating in the area [Bynoe Harbour] at the moment … and I’m having a ball.”
Seafood Council head Rob Fish dismissed the allegations of commercial fishermen antagonising rec anglers as “nonsense”.
“It’s the other way round,” he said. “Commercial fishermen have often spent the whole night with sinkers being hurled at them.”
He said professional fishermen had at times been forced to call police.
NT Seafood Council chairman Rob Fish denied the commercial fishing sector was unsustainable.
“The truth is the recreational sector wants this area for theirexclusive access, and if commercial bycatch was reduced to zerotomorrow, they would still seek these and additional closures,” Mr Fishsaid.
“If the recreational sector is increasing at the rate claimed, it isthis sector that is posing a risk to the sustainability of theresource.”
The proposed closure is seven times larger than the government committed to at last year’s election, the Seafood Council said.
Chris Makepeace, executive officer of the AmateurFishermen’s Association of the NT, said the territory’s recreational fishing sector was worth about $90 million a year, compared with the $6m commercial sector.