Fishing in­dus­try con­cerned about ves­sel track­ing sys­tem

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Louise Shan­non

A RE­BATE scheme to help fish­ers with the costs of buy­ing and in­stalling com­pul­sory ves­sel track­ing units be­gan last week, but not everyone is happy.

Some in the in­dus­try are worried about “dev­as­tat­ing” knock-on ef­fects of the new sys­tem and be­lieve the govern­ment is “bark­ing up the wrong tree” when it comes to aid­ing com­mer­cial fish­er­men.

Agri­cul­tural In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment and Fisheries Min­is­ter Mark Furner said the govern­ment had part­nered with the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park Au­thor­ity to make up to $3 mil­lion avail­able to help in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ves­sel track­ing.

“The re­bate will be avail­able un­til De­cem­ber 31, 2020 for all com­mer­cial fishing boat, har­vest and char­ter li­cence hold­ers,” Mr Furner said.

He said as part of Queens­land’s Sus­tain­able Fisheries Strat­egy, all com­mer­cial and char­ter boats would re­quire ves­sel track­ing by 2020 with net, line and crab boats to have ves­sel track­ing units in­stalled and op­er­a­tional from Jan­uary 1 next year.

Whit­sun­day Fishing World owner Bob Spees said he was con­cerned the in­tro­duc­tion of track­ing units would have a “dev­as­tat­ing” ef­fect on the re­gion’s fishing in­dus­try.

“It’s an in­va­sion of peo­ple’s pri­vacy,” he said.

“It’s to­tally un­ac­cept­able — all the pro­fes­sional fish­er­man are just not happy

about it.

“If the govern­ment is worried about boats go­ing into green zones, why don’t they just say that?”

Mr Spees said the track­ing sys­tem dis­played a “total lack of trust” from the govern­ment.

“The pro­fes­sional fish­ers aren’t go­ing to stuff up their own back yard,” he said.

“Many of them are scared to speak up, but I know they’re up­set about it be­cause they’ve been telling me.”

Mr Spees be­lieved many op­er­a­tors would con­sider leav­ing the in­dus­try be­cause of in­creas­ing costs to run their boats.

“There’s a need for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors ... on the Whit­sun­days it seems to run fine and we’re all work­ing to­gether,” he said.

Pro­fes­sional fish­er­man Keith Bren­nan, who has op­er­ated com­mer­cially in the area for the past 13 years, said the govern­ment was “bark­ing up the wrong tree”.

He said he would not be “100% against” the de­vices if there was a safety el­e­ment in­volved.

“I’d like some­body to know where I am all the time,” Mr Bren­nan said.

“But they’ve said they’re not there for your safety — they’re there so they know what’s go­ing on.

“If it had a safety as­pect I would say it could be a good ven­ture, but be­cause it’s an an­kle bracelet I think its dis­crim­i­na­tory and shouldn’t be al­lowed. And if it is al­lowed, I think they should foot the bill.”

Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park Au­thor­ity Chair Dr Rus­sell Re­ichelt said they were pleased to con­trib­ute the scheme.

“The Great Bar­rier Reef Blue­print for Re­silience highlights our sup­port for im­ple­ment­ing ves­sel track­ing on all com­mer­cial fishing ves­sels op­er­at­ing in the Marine Park,” Dr Re­ichelt said.

“We be­lieve ves­sel track­ing is an im­por­tant step to in­creas­ing com­pli­ance with Marine Park zon­ing rules.

Given that ac­cu­mu­lated pres­sures are im­pact­ing the Reef’s re­silience, the ben­e­fits of pro­tect­ing no-take zones by en­hanc­ing com­pli­ance are more im­por­tant than ever be­fore.”

Com­mer­cial fish­ers can ap­ply to the Queens­land Ru­ral and In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity for re­im­burse­ment, with ap­proved ves­sel track­ing units pur­chased from June 1, 2018 would be el­i­gi­ble for a re­bate.

There’s a need for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors ... on the Whit­sun­days it seems to run fine and we’re all work­ing to­gether.

— Whit­sun­day Fishing World owner Bob Spees

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