COFFS HARBOUR’S fishing community has railed against plans they say will ruin their industry.
Commercial fishers and recreational anglers are supporting a petition to go to federal parliament, protesting the Federal Government’s plans to “prevent commercial and recreational fishing” off the North Coast.
Fishermen are also fuming over the State Government’s plans for the Solitary Islands’ Marine Park which they say will ban prawn trawling and expand the no-fishing sanctuary.
Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club’s fisheries and environmental spokesman Geoff Parker said both strategies would kill off fishing locally.
“They are all fisheries closures not based on science and done to appease the anti-fishing brigade,” Mr Parker said.
“(Federal Environment Minister Peter) Garrett’s proposal is to lock down areas to fishing up to 80 miles to sea. His priority is the continental shelf and sea mounts, prime game fishing areas.
“If Peter Garrett and the rest of the anti-fishing brigade were serious, they would address the true threats to biodiversity such as bad farming practices, chemical run-off, introduced species and mangrove degradation.”
Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op chairman Russell Kerr said the State Government’s plans for the Solitary Islands’ Marine Park would devastate the co-op.
“All our prawn trawling and some of our trap fishing will be hit and these extended no-take zones will be devastating for hand-line boats too,” Mr Kerr said.
“If they shut prawn trawling off, the people of Coffs Harbour won’t be able to buy local seafood – it will have to be shipped in, if the co-op survives, that is.
“Without our prawn fleet I just can’t see the infrastructure staying at the co-op as it is.”
Mr Kerr said federal plans to join a Commonwealth marine reserve with the Solitary Islands’ Marine Park would take fishing grounds away from fishers.
Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker said the fishing and tourism industries were big losers under the lockout.
“It is essential the future management of our waters is based on comprehensive scientific data,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“A sustainable fishing sector is in everyone’s best interests but it is essential that marine protection is balanced against community needs.”