NORTH Queensland-based Senator Susan McDonald has slammed the Queensland Government’s approach to commercial take of black jewfish after a recently mandated annual 20-tonne catch limit was reached in just two months.
Queensland Fisheries last year classified black jewfish as “overfished” but commercial fishermen caught so many of the species this year that they reached the 20-tonne figure in the first week of March.
Now any incidental catches of black jewfish – both commercial and recreational – are to be thrown back.
Commercial fishers have been sharing photos and videos of black jewfish caught in nets which have to be thrown back even though they are dead.
They complain that not only are perfectly good table fish are being wasted, but that dumping them back in the sea attracts sharks and crocodiles which can wreak havoc on nets and endanger people.
Senator McDonald said she had also received reports from professional fishers that the season for black jewfish was opened by Queensland Fisheries when the fish were breeding.
“Fishers reported that at the start of the season, they were catching females in roe. If the Queensland Government had applied rigorous, open and transparent science to slashing the black jewfish take, surely they should have known the animals’ breeding cycle and delayed the season start,” she said.
“I’ve been told that up to 100 tonnes of black jewfish were caught some years, mostly as bycatch by fishers targeting other estuarine species.
“But the biggest travesty is that any black jewfish caught from now until next year must be thrown back as shark food rather than sold to feed families.
“No one wants unregulated fishing, but regulations must be based on solid foundations and measurable outcomes, not some arbitrary wave of a pen based on assumptions and ideological agendas.
“The State Labor Government is ensuring perfectly good table fish are thrown away rather than allowing incidental catches to be sold.
“All the fishermen are asking is that a proper and transparent stock assessment be carried out and that any incidental catches of black jewfish can be kept and sold.”
CEO of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, Eric Perez, said commercial fishermen were sick of being constantly marginalised by the State Government.
“We believe the Labor Government is using guesswork based on modelling from log book entries of previous catches rather than solid science and stock assessments,” he said.
“For fishermen to be throwing back jewfish based on assumptions is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen.
“They were catching about 100 tonnes of black jew a year and they weren’t even targeting them.
“We just want to be treated with some dignity, and all we ask is that these fisheries are managed based on good scientific data, not guesstimates.”