Fishermen protest in marginal seats (letter)by Bob KennedyNews Weekly
, August 14, 2004
Peter Westmore, in his editorial (News Weekly
, July 31), named a raft of primary industries, which will probably cost the Howard government votes at the next Federal Election. After the recent upheaval in the fishing industry, due to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authorities Representative Areas Programme, I am amazed that Peter does not have fishing on his list along with the others.
By the Prime Minister's own widely publicised statement, if he loses just eight seats at the election, he loses government. Five of those eight seats are along the Great Barrier Reef coast of Queensland, and coincidentally they are all based on the sugar and fishing industries.
The Queensland fishing industry, both commercial and recreational, has been dealt a severe blow by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Representative Areas Programme.
A very large part of the Queensland commercial inshore fishery, (barramundi and mud crab) has been lost to this programme, which is not, in spite of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's insistence, based on real science and sustainability, but on the World Wildlife Fund's agenda to lock up the reef, all with the compliance of the former Environment Minister, Dr. Kemp, and a very green Barrier Reef Authority staff.
By the admission of the Federal Government's panel of "experts" dealing with the compensation aspect of the closures, 70 barramundi licences will need to be bought back to avoid over-fishing the areas that are left.
On the face of it, that sounds fair and reasonable; but as with most re-adjustment packages, the sting is in the tail.
The licences are to be bought by tender, which means that fishermen who are genuinely displaced by this most unnecessary act, may miss out on fair compensation, and be left out on a limb, with nowhere to fish and no package to help them to retrain for other employment.
On top of this, all fishermen have capital equipment, (nets, boats, large eskies, etc) that will be worthless to them, and they will get nothing for them. Obviously, the better fishermen's licence will have a higher tender price on it, so even if they are the ones who are genuinely displaced, they won't be able to access the compensation package. The very real possibility of over-fishing remains in the few areas left open.
The fishermen's loss will be compounded by a fairly large loss of permanent jobs in the wholesaling and retailing sectors of the fishing industry in all of the coastal towns up and down the coast, and added to this will be a substantial income loss to the local businesses associated with fishing.
The anger of fishermen and farmers who feel as if they have been dudded by the Federal government in the Great Barrier Reef marine park generally, makes the loss of those five seats a real possibility, if not a probability.Bob Kennedy,