Fishers hit back over CQ's net-free fishing zones

RECREATIONAL fishers are hitting back at a campaign against the State Government's proposed net-free fishing zones off the coast.

Professional fishers say the zones will cut down on the amount of local fish available, and are asking people to sign a petition against the move.

Infofish Australia spokesman Bill Sawynok said the government had made a policy decision to reallocate river and inshore fisheries resources from the commercial sector to the recreational sector through the establishment of three net-free zones along the coast.

These were at Cairns, Mackay and the Fitzroy River and Keppel Bay.

He said there were no net-free zones proposed for the Bundaberg area so there would be little impact on the Bundaberg community as the nearest one was 300km away.

"While there are a number of commercial fishers from Bundaberg that fish the Fitzroy River that will be affected they will have access to the government's $10 million adjustment package as well as still be able to fish other areas including around Bundaberg," he said.

"It is expected that affected commercial fishers will be adequately compensated as they should be."

Mr Sawynok said the campaign being pursued by commercial fishers was mostly based on emotive arguments and not on facts.

"One of the key arguments is that there will be no local fish available," he said.

"Note that reef species and line fishing will not be affected."

Mr Sawynok said there was already a three-month closed season for barramundi from November-January along the east coast.

"I am not aware of a single complaint from the public about the lack of fish during that period that includes the high-demand Christmas period," he said.

Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said the net-free zones were relatively small

. "Over the last three years the average combined all-species catch by commercial fishers in the zones has been about 7% of the total Queensland east coast annual catch," he said.

"We have been advised there will not be a significant impact on the availability of fresh fish in shops or restaurants in Queensland once the zones are implemented."

Mr Byrne said commercial licence holders would be free, as they were now, to operate in other inshore fisheries.

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