by Jeni Bone
The Queensland state government has bowed to community and industry pressure and dumped a planned six-week ban on snapper for 2012. The government announced today it will not repeat its controversial ban that ran from February to March this year, causing confusion and loss of income and livelihood to commercial fishers.
Ban is off for 2012, but changes for recreational anglers.
But under a new sustainability plan, which will be reviewed in three years, recreational bag limits will be reduced from five to four, and a voluntary online monitoring program will start.
Recreational anglers will only be able to catch four snapper, instead of five, and only one of the catch can exceed 70 centimetres, Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace said today. The remaining snapper must be within 35cm and 70cm.
The government has yet to name the starting date for the laws, which have been introduced to prevent snapper stocks from diminishing further. Commercial anglers have been spared any changes.
A new recreational fishing advisory group will be formed to advise the Government on fishing policy.
Acting Queensland Premier Paul Lucas said the future of snapper could be ensured without imposing bans.
'We have to balance the need to protect this species, the jobs the fishing industry provides and the right for Queenslanders to chuck in a line,' he said. 'We are still committed to rebuilding snapper stocks, but doing it in such a way that doesn't threaten industry or the Queensland way of life.'
Former Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin announced the ban last year, citing studies that showed snapper stocks had plummeted by 65 per cent since the 1940s.
The Bligh Government was then bombarded with feedback from recreational anglers, charter businesses and commercial operators, many claiming they would lose income, while other anglers and noted scientists said the measures would have no impact on replenishing stocks.
At the time, a Government regulatory impact statement for Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery also mooted a plan to tax anglers for catching snapper. But Craig Wallace, who was appointed Fisheries Minister earlier this year, dumped the plan, and subsequent meetings with peak fishing group, Sunfish resulted in an end to the six-week ban.
Commentators are suggesting the change of heart is linked to the ban timing coinciding with State elections, which could mean reduced votes for Labor in some of the state’s key coastal electorates.
Mr Wallace described the changes as sensible. 'Queenslanders have a passion for fishing and for the wonderful seafood that this state's waters produce,' he said, adding that he is a keen angler himself and 'personally oversaw the consultation process to ensure community views were heard at the highest levels of government'.