Conflicting fishing data causes a stir
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He has submitted an independent review into an unpublished James Cook University report about grey Spanish mackerel stocks in the Port Douglas region.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.
Recreational and commercial mackerel fishermen have been clashing for a decade as this 2007 photo depicts.