VIDEO: Net-free zones will ruin my life, fisherman says
TANNUM Sands commercial fisherman Dane King has been fishing the area from Yeppoon to Curtis Island for 17 years.
He has invested at least $500,000 in his business and says if the State Government's proposed net-free zones go ahead - which is expected - his life and his livelihood will be ruined.
He stands to lose the majority of his fishing grounds and everything he has worked for.
Three days before the state government election, the Labor party announced it planned to introduce three net-free zones.
Those zones cover Trinity Bay near Cairns, St Helen's Beach north of Mackay and a large area from Yeppoon down to The Narrows at the northern end of Curtis Island.
The government has also allocated $10 million in this year's budget to buy back some of the commercial fishing licences.
Mr King says the area that affects Gladstone fishermen the most, from Yeppoon to Curtis Island, is eight times larger than the others.
"It's not a job. It's a lifestyle and we stand to lose that," Mr King said.
"I have worked hard to be able to have the kind of life where I am out working on the water and they are just going to take it away, without even talking to us about it first."
This week the Minister for Agriculture Bill Byrne announced the results of a survey (consulting on the boundaries of the zones) that was launched two months ago.
There were 6300 people who responded to that survey. The minister says 90% of respondents were in favour of the boundaries of the net-free zones.
"….this is a policy that has resonated with the people of Queensland," Minister Byrne said.
Only 4% of the people who responded to the survey were commercial fishermen, 49% identified as recreational fishers, 33% as the general public, 13% as conservationist and 1% as indigenous fishers or charter fishing businesses.
There has been heavy criticism from the commercial fishing industry over a lack of consultation.
Queensland Seafood Association President Karen Collard said despite multiple requests for meetings with Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne the commercial industry has been ignored.
The QSIA has labelled the way these net-free zones have been introduced as "bad policy" which has alienated the commercial industry.
"The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has consistently called for 'real' consultation and two way dialogue between government and commercial fishers.
"So far our requests for meetings before and during the submission process have been ignored by Minister Byrne," Karen Collard said.
"The only time I have had with the minister was 15 minutes the morning of a community cabinet meeting in Townsville in March. That can in no way be considered consultation from an industry perspective."
A final decision is yet to be made on the boundaries of the zones.