Conflicting fish­ing data causes a stir

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Tom Volling

FISH­ERIES sci­en­tists are split about the char­ter fish­ing in­dus­try’s calls to cre­ate a new net-free zone from Port Dou­glas to Cape Tribu­la­tion.

Re­tired fish­eries bi­ol­o­gist and Wonga Beach res­i­dent, David Cook, be­lieves Far North fish­ers were be­ing ig­nored in aca­demic re­ports that may shape gov­ern­ment pol­icy about net-free zones.

Mr Cook is back­ing calls for the net-free zone to pro­tect lo­cal fish stocks.

He has sub­mit­ted an in­de­pen­dent re­view into an un­pub­lished James Cook Univer­sity re­port about grey Span­ish mack­erel stocks in the Port Dou­glas re­gion.

“The re­port be­lit­tles the ex­pe­ri­ence of re­spon­dents and at worst, dis­counts facts ob­tained from com­pe­tent, ex­pe­ri­enced,

se­nior fish­ers,” he said.

He be­lieves grey mack­erel stocks are suf­fer­ing from over­fish­ing, but the re­port’s author, Dr Re­nae Tobin, said grey mack­erel stocks were not in dan­ger and does not be­lieve a net-free zone is needed.

“I think there are a lot of recre­ational fish­ing ar­eas, I don’t think we need an­other one,” she said.

“A lot of con­cern that were raised by the com­mu­nity prob­a­bly re­flected a change in fish­ing due to re­zon­ing of the coastal ar­eas.”

The JCU re­port aimed to find so­lu­tions to conflict and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of co-man­age­ment of recre­ational and com­mer­cial fish­ers.

Dr Tobin’s re­port found while line fish­ers sug­gested grey mack­erel stocks were de­clin­ing, com­mer­cial net fish­ing log­book data re­vealed in­creases in landed catches in Port Dou­glas.

No catch data was avail­able for the recre­ational sec­tor to con­firm re­ported de­clines.

She said the re­port was re­viewed through for­mal pro­cesses and hasn’t been pub­lished be­cause the project had not been com­pleted.

The study was done at the in­vi­ta­tion of the com­mu­nity, where co-or­di­na­tor of the lo­cal Net­work for Sus­tain­able Fish­ing was Mr Cook, who set-up in­ter­views with about 30 sur­vey re­spon­dents.

“It is re­ally not ap­pro­pri­ate for David Cook to re­view it given he is so in­vested in that area and in­volved in the sur­veys,” Dr Tobin said.

A key find­ing of Dr Tobin’s re­search was that a third party would need to make a de­ci­sion on the net-free zone be­cause a com­pro­mise could not be reached.

“Par­tic­u­larly given there has been a sus­tain­able fish­eries strat­egy re­leased that clearly states any de­ci­sions are based on science, rather than ad hoc de­ci­sions,” she said.

Pic­ture: HAALI GOODSELL

Recre­ational and com­mer­cial mack­erel fish­er­men have been clash­ing for a decade as this 2007 photo de­picts.

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