ANGLERS UNITE: 'Don't let $100M swim past Fraser Coast'
THE Fraser Coast could rake in more than $100 million in fishing tourism dollars if critical reforms were made to the region's industry.
Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance chairman Scott Mitchell made the bold claim last week while addressing a packed crowd of recreational anglers, conservationists and tourism leaders.
It's the first time the groups have formed a unified front on the issue, calling on the State Government to remove a designated zone from the Great Sandy Marine Park and ensure the protection of the area's marine life and fish stocks.
Mr Mitchell said the marine park was one of the most diverse in the country.
He said re-zoning the designated Great Sandy area into a true conservation zone would help transform the region into a major fishing hub, similar to Rockhampton.
"We have the potential to become one of the most diverse and amazing recreational fishing areas in Australia," Mr Mitchell said.
He said visiting recreational fishers currently brought in around $30 million a year in tourism dollars.
By increasing the number of fishers by eight per cent, Mr Mitchell estimated the Fraser Coast could rake in more than $100 million per year.
Commercial nets can currently be cast in the existing designated Great Sandy area under environmental regulations.
Under the group's proposal, that area would be changed into a true conservation park zone (yellow zone), which would prevent fishing practices like gill netting, as well as regulating bait netting.
The FCFA claims the change will protect marine habitats and restore fish stocks.
Mr Mitchell said trawling and larger fishing industries would not be affected, due to their boats fishing in waters far away from the designated Great Sandy area.
He said commercial in-shore fishermen who netted in the area would be fairly compensated.
A spokesman for the Department of Environment and Science said it was reviewing and analysing more than 3000 submissions on the Great Sandy Marine Park Discussion Paper.
"The review of the Zoning Plan is being conducted to ensure the management framework supports and protects the marine park while also allowing for a range of sustainable uses," the spokesman said.
"Management changes suggested by stakeholders need to be comprehensively assessed and evaluated to ensure the draft zoning plan achieves this balance."
The draft zoning plan is expected to be released early next year.
Angler shares fears of future fish shortage
JOSH Power's worst fear is not being able to teach his children about the joys of fishing.
The recreational angler, who has grown up and lived in Hervey Bay his entire life, says it could become a reality because of commercial netting practices in the region's waters.
His comments are a common complaint among local anglers as the divide between recreational and commercial fishermen continues to widen.
With a unified front now calling for changes to the Great Sandy Marine Park area, Mr Power said there was enormous potential for the region to open up new tourism opportunities by changing the fishing laws.
"I've noticed people in Hervey Bay or even people that were coming here are going further north, because the fishing is getting tougher," he said.
"I fear for when I have kids that they won't be able to catch a fish.
"The whales can only bring so many tourism dollars to Hervey Bay, what happens when the grey nomads don't come here any more?"