OPINION | Fishing industry rebuffs misguided attempt to shut iconic Queensland fishery

Photo: Flickr.com / Kris-Mikael Krister
Photo: Flickr.com / Kris-Mikael Krister – Scalloped hammerhead

Today the Senate will vote on a disallowance put forward by Senator Whish-Wilson regarding scallop hammerhead sharks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP).

We do not support this move to further restrict sustainable, well managed professional fishing.

Just like the broader community, Australia’s professional fishers care about the marine environment and we understand the need to protect certain species and work to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks.

This disallowance appears to be another mechanism to shut commercial fishing by targeting a species that is well managed in Australia. We acknowledge the scallop hammerhead is an internationally sensitive species, but Australia’s fishers should not be penalised for international issues when our local stocks are so well managed.

Let’s be clear, the scalloped hammerhead is not a target species, however a small number are caught and used due to the fact they congregate with iconic commercial species such as School and grey mackerel, threadfin salmon and barramundi. Moving to a no-take position on the scallop hammerhead has the ability to jeopardise many commercial fisheries in the GBRMP and the flow on effects of this decision would not be trivial. It has impacts for the tourism and hospitality industries for example.

The commercial fishing industry has already, and very recently, worked with both the state and Federal governments to ensure there are appropriate measures in place for this species, supported by the Commonwealth Threatened Species Scientific Committee. The scallop hammerhead has adequate protection in Queensland and more broadly across Australia.

In January this year, fisheries management controls in Queensland for the scalloped hammerhead was strengthened. This included a total allowable catch of 78 tonne per year for the GBRMP, of which only 20 tonnes was harvested in the 20017/18 financial year, and there are only a few licences which permit shark catch.

These continued attacks on Australia’s sustainable, well-managed fisheries are causing unprecedented stresses on our fishers, who experience twice the base-rate of psychological stress of any other sector. Significant contributing factors to this mental health issue are these ongoing attacks and continued threats to resource access. Enough is enough, these attacks need to stop and our fishers need to be allowed to focus on the future of their sustainable businesses.

Jane Lovell

Jane Lovell is the inaugural CEO of Seafood Industry Australia, the national peak body which represents the Australian seafood industry. A scientist by training, Jane has also worked in horticultural export, in the fisheries portfolio in the Australian Federal Parliament, for small businesses and for large multi-national corporations. She was inaugural Managing Director of TQA Australia, a not-for-profit concerned with food safety, quality and environmental assurance in primary industry. In this role, she worked with a range of seafood businesses, from aquaculture to processing and assisted the Tasmanian oyster industry develop and implement its own food safety and quality assurance system. Jane holds qualifications in corporate governance, leadership and has recently completed her Masters examining issues associated with the global governance of food security.