NORTH Coast fishing co-operatives will struggle to sell imported prawns to the seafood-loving public as locally caught produce is offloaded on to the black market.
That’s the extreme outcome professional fishermen have warned will happen if trawling is banned from Solitary Islands Marine Park and Commonwealth waters, which are also under review.
In the largest row seen on the waterfront since the marine park’s introduction in 1998, the commercial fishing industry is vehemently opposing the State Government’s proposed changes to the marine park.
The plan, which is open to community consultation until September, pushes for a blanket ban on trawlers in the marine park within two years under commercial fishing licence buybacks.
Professional fishermen say the review will decimate the Coffs Coast’s $16 million seafood industry.
The marine park authority has responded to the scaremongering, saying it’s acting on public pressure to phase out the “damaging fishing activity”.
Marine Parks Authority member and head of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Sally Barnes said all views would be considered before the State Government made a final decision.
“We will continue to manage the Solitary Islands Marine Park based on the best available science and in response to how the community wants to use the park,” Ms Barnes said.
“Up to 15 per cent of the annual king-prawn catch for Coffs Harbour occurs in state waters, either in or outside the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
“We want to work with industry to hear their views and concerns.”
It has been noted that 75 per cent of the approximate 1000 submissions to the zoning plan review requested that trawling be prohibited in the marine park, as it is recognised as the most damaging of fishing activities.
John Harrison, of the Professional Fishermen’s Association, has urged the public: “If you enjoy fresh local seafood on your plate, then make your voice heard”.
He and other lobbyists for the industry say the draft marine park plan will have “a fairly substantial impact on the fleet of 45 trawlers based in the Clarence/Coffs Coast”.
Federal member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker is actively campaigning on behalf of the industry, calling for “reasonable consideration” with the state marine park review as well as the Federal Government review of Commonwealth waters.
Mr Hartsuyker says fishing lockouts will threaten the livelihoods of 100 Coffs fishing families and provide a boon to the seafood black market. To have your say on the review go to www.mpa.nsw.gov.au.