Hervey Bay commercial fisherman Brett Fuchs.
Hervey Bay commercial fisherman Brett Fuchs. Alistair Brightman

FISHING FEUD: Disagreement over future of marine park

A FEUD is brewing on the Fraser Coast between the commercial and recreational fishing industries as the zoning plan for the Great Sandy Strait Marine Park continues to be reviewed.

The Marine Parks (Great Sandy) Zoning Plan, introduced in 2017, is being reviewed by the Department of Environment and Science with commercial fishers from across the region recently coming together in Hervey Bay to discuss the next step in the process and raise concerns.

Hervey Bay commercial fisherman Brett Fuchs said his data showed that in the past five years fishing in the marine park had been as sustainable as ever, if not more so.

But Scott Mitchell, chairman of the Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance, said commercial fishing should be banned from the marine park conservation zone areas, bringing it into line with others across Queensland and the nation.

He blames his run of bad luck when casting a line on fewer fish, saying the yellow conservation zone area needs to be made net-free to improve recreational fishing and fish stocks, as well as protecting the marine environment.

Mr Mitchell said he had recently been fishing for five hours south of Moon Point and it was "like a barren desert".

"It should have been teeming with small fish," he said.

"There was nothing." He said the core objective should be bringing fish stocks back to 60 per cent of the original biomass, adding that Hervey Bay could be a goldmine, attracting recreational fishers across the globe, if fish numbers improved.

"In the past 15 years there's no question key species have declined."

Mr Mitchell said commercial fishers should receive compensation if their businesses were banned from the marine park or they could move to other areas.

But Mr Fuchs, a third-generation commercial fisherman who has lived in the region for 23 years, said science was on his side.

He said there had been a reduction of more than 30 per cent in commercial fishing since the introduction of the marine park 10 years ago, ensuring the industry was sustainable.

"The review at the moment is just to make sure that the park is doing the job it's meant to do with conservation of fish stocks and marine life."

Mr Fuchs described calls for net fishing to be completely banned from the marine park as "radical".

"That means nothing because we have science, and a lot of restrictions on us," he said.

"We supply food for the public."

Hervey Bay recreational fisherman Scott Mitchell (Chair of the Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance).
Hervey Bay recreational fisherman Scott Mitchell (Chair of the Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance). Alistair Brightman

Mr Fuchs said he was not concerned about the review.

"The review basically just making that sure it's working well," he said.

"The fishing community think the marine park is serving the wider community very well at the moment."

The industry was sustainable and concerns that the marine park might be over fished were unfounded.

"We are highly regulated," Mr Fuchs said.

"My fishing catch rate has stayed the same, if not increased, in the past five years."

A discussion paper has been prepared and is under public consultation, which began on January 14 and will continue until February 25.

The discussion paper submissions will then be analysed.

The existing zoning plan designates different areas where activities can happen in the marine park, such as sailing, swimming, fishing and boating.

The next stage of the process will include preparing a revised zoning plan, releasing a draft of the plan for public consultation and then analysing public submissions.

Legislation will then be drafted before a new zoning plan takes effect.

The review comes on the back of the announcement of proposed commercial and recreational fishing reforms, which were announced in Maryborough last month.

The intended reforms include individual quotas on species of fish and crabs, possession limits on certain species of marine life and splitting the state's trawl fishery into five regions.