Fears for future of Bay festival as fishing reforms loom
IF QUEENSLAND'S fishing industry takes a hit, the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival goes with it.
That was festival co-ordinator Elaine Lewthwaite's warning after the weekend's successful event, which she fears could be the last.
With tough new State Government fishing regulations on the horizon, the future is uncertain for the region's commercial operators and the iconic festival.
"The future of the festival is absolutely connected with the future of the commercial fishing industry," Ms Lewthwaite said.
"The State Government has a sustainable seafood strategy that has a lot of potentially negative impacts on commercial fishermen."
The proposed change would include new quotas for individual operators, new size limits for pearl perch and king threadfin, seasonal closures for snapper, new mud crab limits and banning lightweight crab pots. Members of the Fraser Coast's commercial fishing industry have shared their concerns, particularly in relation to the possibility of reduced quotas, which they say could hurt their bottom line or even put them out of business.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett, who was at the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival on Sunday, has also been vocal about the concerns of Queensland's commercial fishers, questioning the State Government's proposed reforms.
Ms Lewthwaite said just like the rest of the industry, festival organisers were taking it one day at a time when it came to what the future might bring.
"If the industry isn't viable, it can't supply fish for the festival," she said.
"If we don't have seafood we can't have a seafood festival."
Ms Lewthwaite said despite the possible challenges, she remained optimistic.
"It is a great event, a magnificent event," she said.
"We're very passionate about it, it's our celebration and we love to share it with the public."
Mark Furner, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries said nothing in the proposed regulations would impact the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival or any other event.
"I was delighted to attend the Hervey Bay Festival last year and enjoy some of Queensland's fresh seafood," he said.
"Our reforms are designed to build a legacy of a sustainable fishery for our children and grandchildren.
"We want to protect jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industries, and to do that we must protect fish stocks."