Home' Work Boat World : October 2015 Contents Commercial fishing –The bad
news continues with a bright spot
With DICK LEE
A prominent and respected journalist recently suggested a
choice for the Australian people – re-ignite hope or sink into
deeper conflict. He was referring to the current national
situation including unemployment, personal trauma, doubts
about the econo my and the performance of their politicians
and public servants.
He suggested it would be wrong to put the entire blame on the
politicians. “Politicians mirror the society” he claimed, suggesting
the blame for the state of the nation is across the whole
population. “We get the politicians we deserve.”
Is it possible that a similar situation exists in the nation’s
commercial fishing, aquaculture and maritime industries?
Not so long ago, the Australia fishing industry was promoted
around the world as a leader in terms of gear, techniques,
sustainability and management.
Today, commercial fishing has been decimated – a monumental
failure in terms of operations, management and productivity.
All the blame for the critical state of the industry cannot be laid
at the feet of the Greens, managers, scientists and government
departments. To a degree, the fishermen, their families, suppliers
and companies deserve the managers they have accepted.
How is it possible that Australia, with the third largest exclusive
economic zone in the world, is catching at a rate around one 30th
of the global average? This remarkable fact explains why the
nation imports in excess of 75 percent of the seafood consumed in
homes and restaurants.
Until the 1970s fishermen, professional and competent
operators, were well aware of their responsibilities with respect to
conser ving the environme nt and minimising damage. They did
not want dugong and turtles in their nets and realised that if the
ecosystem was damaged, their catches would be swiftly reduced.
In addition, they had a comprehensive knowledge of and
respect for the sea and their catch and worked closely with
managers to achieve a globally enjoyed reputation.
Respect for the sea diminished by
government inter vention
Thoughts on the environment changed in recent years,
attributable not only to the powerful influence of
environmentalists and competition for the resource from
recreational fishermen, but also from the increased pressure and
costs of questionable management procedures.
The introduction of individual transferable quotas (ITQs),
developed and imposed by Fisheries scientists and officials,
attempted to define the total allowable catch (TAC) based on
scientific research and previous catch records. ITQs were applied to
commercial fishing in many parts of the world.
What this did was transfer the concept of common and accepted
public ownership of the resource to individual property rights.
This has had a devastating result in many areas, due frequently
to a race to catch the allocated share of the allowed catch. Any
incentive to conserve stocks was lost. In addition, property rights
could be accumulated by those with money and governments
could subsidise their fleets in international waters, despite their
inability to be commercially successful.
When the results of the new measures became evident,
managers responded to this classic tragedy of the commo ns with
command and control strategies such as restricting boat
numbers, controlling access, time-limits and many other
restrictions and costly impositions. This had a devastating,
destructive effect on commercial fishing families, fishing ports
and the industry as a whole.
In addition governments have responded to the Greens and
recreational lobbies by implementing many marine protected areas
and other restricted fishing areas, r ecreational only fishing areas
and net free zones, seriously limiting the access commercial fishers
have to work.
These new measures have greatly depleted commercial fishing
in Australia and many other areas around the world. A report
issued in 1993 estimated that in Queensland commercial fishing
was the fifth largest primary industry, which provided over 20,000
employment opportunities and supplied over AU$600 million
(US$416 million) to the state. Estimates today put the economic
value of the industry at $125 million and employment for several
thousand, a loss of $287 million and 15,000 jobs.
And the Bright Spot?
At Mooloolaba, Queensland, a family business has become the
first Australian group to be awarded the Marine Stewardship
Council certification for wild caught tuna. Pavo and Heidi Walker
from Walker Fisheries are confident the MSC label will help
counter the common belief that fishing for albacore and
yellowfin tuna is unsustainable, w hile opening new markets for
their fresh product.
MSC Asia Pacific Director Patrick Caleo believes the new
certification means Australians can no w purchase locally caught
and globally certified tuna for the first time.
MSC is a global and well respected organisation and Heidi
Walker claims the MSC tag as a particular honour . Heidi no w says
“Just like farmers have a great respect for the land, we have a
great respect for the sea. This is our livelihood – we’re in it for the
long term .”
This is very reminiscent of the way fishermen spoke many
A new discovery?
Australians have recently become very worried about the
increased shark attacks on swimmers.
Without an expensive research project, Leo Lukin, an east coast
commercial fishermen, has explained the increase of shark attacks
on surfers is a consequence of the ban on commercial fishing in
Lake Macquarie, resulting in an substantial increase in Australian
salmon numbers. “Salmon draw sharks: we’re a side dish,“ he
suggests. Similarly on the west coast, department scientist Dr Brett
Molony said unusual shark activity was being caused by the annual
migration of schools of salmon.
The Australian salmon, genus Arripis, is not related to the
Atlantic or Pacific salmo n, a favourite food delicacy around the
world. It is used more as a bait fish or a recreational fishing
favourite rather than human consumption.
Is it not feasible that the restoration of commercial netting for
salmon in Lake Macquarie would benefit every sector from tourism
to commercial fishing?
Where to now?
Restoration of a successful, sustainable fishing industry is
possible. It will depend on co-operation and unity in the industry
and acceptance by gove r nme nt and the enviro nmentalists that
genuine fishermen, like the Walkers, are the experts.
WORK BOAT WORLD October 2015
19 FISHY:Layout 1 14/9/15 12:00 PM Page 19
Links Archive September 2015 November 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page