Co-op warns of health threat from imported fish
CLARENCE River fishing industry figures say lack of adequate regulation for imported seafood may lead to outbreaks of food poisoning similar to the Nanna's frozen berries hepatitis A scare.
The general manager of the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative, Danielle Adams, said the risk of disease might arise in imported seafood, which made up about 85% of the sales in New South Wales.
Ms Adams said imported seafood was not subject to the same regulations and quality control as the local catch.
She said this had two effects.
First, the local industry could not compete on price with cheap imports, and second, there was always the risk of contaminated food hitting the supermarket shelves.
The co-op's fishing and marketing manager, Garry Anderson, said Australia had experienced contaminated fish.
"We had the tainted tuna in Sydney and just last night six people at a function in Brisbane were hospitalised with food poisoning from prawns, it appears," he said.
But it was the lack of a level playing field that most worried Ms Adams, who said its effects were also linked to the reform of the fishing industry.
"On the one hand we have NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson saying she wants to see less imported seafood on shelves, and yet the proposed reforms are shrinking the industry," Ms Adams said.
"Last year all the fisheries from border to border rejected the proposed reforms and were asked to come back to the government with their submissions. So far we've yet to receive the results of the submissions back from the government. That was due for public release late last year."
She said the local industry was worried the announcement of the reforms had elements the government did not want released before the March 28 state election.
Mr Anderson said over the past 10 years the local industry had shrunk from 70 boats fishing offshore to about 20, with that decline mostly attributed to natural attrition as some exited the industry.
He said the result had been a drop in the amount of fish processed at the co-op.
Despite this the co-operative had made a small profit after years of losses.
Ms Adams said the other issue facing the industry was attacks by recreational anglers, who were becoming more organised (see breakout story).