GLORY DAYS: Offshore Productions owner John Haenke snapped fishing tour guide Mark Bargenquast and Peter Morse catching a golden trevally out in the Hervey Bay flats in  fishing's heyday. Mr Haenke said people would be lucky to catch anything in today's waters.
GLORY DAYS: Offshore Productions owner John Haenke snapped fishing tour guide Mark Bargenquast and Peter Morse catching a golden trevally out in the Hervey Bay flats in fishing's heyday. Mr Haenke said people would be lucky to catch anything in today's waters. Contributed

Coast fishers divided over marine park review

FOR John Haenke, who used to fish regularly in Hervey Bay about 15 years ago, golden trevally were rampant in the Fraser Coast's waters.

But now, he claims he'd be lucky to even catch a glimpse of one.

The owner and director of the fishing program Offshore Productions, who used to regularly produce feature pieces on Hervey Bay's fishing waters, is one of dozens of anglers who have voiced their concerns of depleted fish stocks in the region.

While he says there are many factors that influence the region's fish population, Mr Haenke claimed the commercial fishing sector was responsible for putting pressure on fish stocks.

He said that pressure has led to thousands of dollars being lost in opportunities for recreational fishing tourism.

"Back in the day, recreational fishing was bringing quite a bit of income into the Bay as Japanese and American tourists flew in to try their luck at a catch,” Mr Haenke said.

"But word has got out it's not worth fishing in those flats any more due to the depleted stocks.”

The Chronicle was inundated with emails from anglers who voiced their concern about the changes in fishing stocks across the Fraser Coast region.

Ivan Cornwell, a third-generation Hervey Bay angler, said he had witnessed an "alarming decline” in fish numbers being caught by weekend fishermen.

"Hervey Bay was once renowned as a mecca for holiday makers to come and enjoy what the Bay had to offer and the ability to catch a nice feed of fish,” Mr Cornwell told the Chronicle.

"Sadly, all holiday makers are asking now 'Are there any fish here?'”

Mark Bargenquast, who owned an inshore sportfishing charter business for more than nine years in Hervey Bay, said the region had gained a bad reputation for low fish numbers and high commercial fishing practices.

Allan Carroll, who has lived in Hervey Bay for more than 10 years, said he had seen no decline in fishing stocks.

A spokeswoman from the Hervey Bay Seafood Association said the State Government got right the first time with the original review of the Great Sandy Marine Park - delivering a marine park that delivered for all stakeholders.

"It allows hobby fishing, commercial fishing, and lots of other water-based activities. It allows commercial fishermen to catch fish and sell to the non-angling seafood consumer and the food service industry,” the spokeswoman said.

"This marine park already has zones that are recreation use only and also zones that do not allow any fishing, recreational or professional (green zones), this is a debate about facts and not emotions.

"The Department has abundant data to support fishing sustainability and keep everyone eating fish, crabs, prawns and the world-famous Hervey Bay Scallops from our Great Sandy Marine Park.”

The spokeswoman said the review should not be seen as "a sneaky way to reallocate a community resource to a minority group”.

"We need to maintain an industry in our region that provides 500 direct jobs and primary industry money into 200 allied businesses in the region and catch food for our community,” the spokeswoman said.

"This industry also brings tourists to the region with not just the superb seafood but a world class nationally-recognised event, the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival.”