Fishos’ fate unsure

COFFS Coast’s professional fishers will be on tenterhooks until mid May when the State Government finally releases the blueprint that will dictate the local industry’s future.

The Solitary Island Advisory Committee got its first look at the new “zero take” or no-catch areas planned off the coast of Coffs Harbour on Thursday evening, but the details are not open to the public yet.

Release of the proposed sanctuary zones will happen next month with the start of a three-month public consultation process.

Already this week State Government Ministers Frank Sartor and Steve Whan have said sanctuary zones will increase off Coffs Harbour from 12 to 20 per cent.

It’s also been confirmed prawn trawlers could be phased out over the next two years under fishing licence buybacks.

The news has rocked the Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Cooperative this week even making waves at the Sydney Fish Market.

“The Coffs Harbour Co-op here in Sydney is renowned for producing high quality, high value species like snapper and king prawns, can the government tell us why they are politicising and threatening a sustainable industry for votes,” Sydney Fish Market director Grahame Turk said.

Mr Turk said if Coffs Harbour lost its prawning industry, no other fishing area could make up for the lost supply.

An estimated 60 per cent of the local $16 million wild harvest seafood is also on-sold to the Sydney Fish Market, while $1 million of produce is sold over the counter here locally.

The industry has been told the impetus for change is scientific seas bed research and long term fish stock studies. It follows the Federal Government’s announced that it too is reviewing marine practices in Commonwealth waters.

National Parks and Wildlife Service North Coast Region Manager, Alan Jeffery assured that the public would next month be fully briefed and able to comment on what’s proposed.

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