Fishing industry future uncertain

CLARENCE professional fishermen are against changes proposed to the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Any changes to the catching of seafood may lead to consumers having to rely on imports, fishermen said yesterday.

“If you enjoy fresh local seafood on your plate, then make your voice heard,” said executive officer of the Professional Fishermen’s Association, John Harrison.

He warned that imported seafood would become the norm if the draft plan of changes was adopted.

While the recommendations are expected to benefit recreational fishers and marine habitats, Mr Harrison believes the latest draft plan for the marine park, announced earlier this week, will have ‘a fairly substantial impact’ on the Clarence ocean trawler fleet of 30, as well as around 15 trawlers based in the Coffs region.

Mr Harrison said the Professional Fishermen’s Association was most concerned by the intention to ‘reduce the impact of commercial fishing activities through a total prohibition on prawn trawling within two years’.

Mr Harrison said, however, until the detail of the report was made public after the advisory committee for the review process meets today, he cannot comment in more detail on the impact.

While no changes to the park’s boundary have been proposed, the NSW Government has announced that the draft plan recommends 80 per cent of the park should continue to allow recreational fishing while providing for improved key habitats by increasing the area of sanctuary zone from 12 to 20 per cent.

“Professional fishermen need to have flexibility, and any decrease in access will have an impact on their ability to catch product,” Mr Harrison said.

Federal member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker has weighed in to the debate, saying the proposed changes will not only cost jobs but provide a boon to the seafood black market.

While Mr Hartsuyker admits that sustainable fishing is vital, he does not agree with a blanket ban on prawn trawling within the park zone.

“The local commercial fishing industry understandably feels threatened,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

The Solitary Islands Marine Park was established in January 1998 and covers around 71,000 hectares of water, extending from Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve to Plover Island and Sandon River.

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