Coal barges could squeeze out prawn industry

INCREASED shipping activity could wipe out Mackay's prawn fishery, a local fisherman has warned.

Danny Pope, an owner/operator of a prawn trawler, said it was a definite risk.

He said a proposal by the Mitchell Group to use barges to move coal from the port of Hay Point could potentially lead to prawning grounds being closed to trawlers.

Although Mr Pope admitted he was not completely across the proposal he said it was concerning, as coal spillages could also harm the fishing grounds.

"Anything on the ground like that is going to affect us," he said.

If grounds were lost, Mr Pope said it would be unfeasible to work in the area.
 

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Commercial fisherman and Mackay Reef Fish Supplies manager David Caracciolo said if the proposal went ahead it could potentially lead to an exclusion zone around the area.

"That would stop all commercial boats and trawlers, that's 80% of Mackay prawn production at Hay Point," he said.

Mr Pope is a 45-year veteran of the industry and said things had changed dramatically with the increased port activity associated with the mining boom.

"People don't see the big picture," he said.

"The big picture is what happens 50 years down the track, do they close all these areas and have no product coming in?"

Mr Pope said increased shipping traffic made no difference to whether prawns would remain in the area.

But he said it would stop trawlers being able to catch them as they would not be able to access good prawn grounds.

"If they have more and more (coal) traffic into the area ... the trawlers being on the grounds would be in their way," he said.

"Then they would say 'we want to declare this a harbour, you keep out of it, you cannot trawl it'. I imagine that's the way it would go."

The Mitchell group's public summary made no mention of potential impacts on the prawn industry.



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