Fishermen fear impact of parks
THE Far North Coast fishing industry fears it will be badly damaged if a new Federal plan to create two deepwater marine parks off the Tweed and Clarence coasts goes ahead.
However, the Government says planning for the parks remains in its infancy and the views of local people will be taken into account in putting them together.
A small group of commercial and recreational fishers, fishing co-op representatives and charter operators will tonight meet officials from the Federal Environment Department at the Ballina Fisherman’s Co-op to discuss the proposal and its potential impact on the local industry.
Fisherman’s co-op manager Phil Hilliard said people going to tonight’s meeting did not know whether they would be asked their opinion about the potential marine parks, which would start three nautical miles offshore, or just be told how the parks would affect them.
After its dealings with the State Government on the coastal marine parks, Mr Hilliard said the industry was sceptical about government consultation processes.
“My personal take is, sure, they talk to the fishermen and to the guys who drive, or own, the charter boats. And then they make a decision that affects a small group of a couple of hundred people. But the people who hang off those guys don’t get talked to,” he said.
“We could lose five fishermen and it makes the co-op unviable. There are charter trucks that go up and down the coast taking seafood to Sydney. If they lose our business they might have to take a truck or two trucks off the road. There’s a whole string of other people who are affected.
“But they may floor us all by saying ‘what do you think?’ We can work with that, but not when it’s just coming in and saying ‘this is what’s happening’.”
“That’s what happened in Coffs (ahead of the announcement of the Solitary Islands Marine Park) with the State Government.”
Mr Hilliard may be pleasantly surprised. A departmental officer said the meeting was one of several planned in NSW and Queensland asking for the thoughts of the commercial, charter and recreational fishing industries.
The officer said the process and planning for the deepwater parks was aimed at ensuring ‘marine resources are used wisely and sustainably’.
He said industry representatives at the meetings would be asked for details on how they used parts of the ocean within the proposed parks – currently officially described as ‘areas for further assessment’.
“The information provided by commercial, charter and recreational fishing industries in these discussions will feed into the marine bioregional planning process,” the officer said.