IT HAS been a long time since the Central Business District of Home Hill has been as busy as it was on Saturday, July 15, as hundreds of fishing enthusiasts and their supporters filled the western side of Eighth Avenue and the adjoining Railway Avenue for the start of a Protest Rally against Government Netting Bans and supporting North Queensland’s professional fishers.
The protest rally, which started in Home Hill, led off from the western side of Eighth Avenue and proceeded in a circle via Railway Avenue before winding its way via the Bruce Highway towards the Ayr Showgrounds, where the Rally was to be held.
Describing the response as “fantastic”, organiser, Burdekin Professional Fisherman, Neil Green said the rally “represents a huge show of support for continued supply of wild-caught fresh fish to seafood-lovers throughout the State”.
He said more than 500 people rallied in Ayr over that July weekend with cars towing boats, seafood trucks and other vehicles – well over 150 in total – joining a procession along the highway from Home Hill to the Ayr Showgrounds, where it was followed by a meeting that packed out the showgrounds hall. Mr Green said it was an amazing turnout and showed how much people cared about the issue.
“We had fishers here from as far away as the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Sunshine Coast, plus lots of local business operators and seafood consumers,” he commented, with 12 people addressing the audience including local businesses affected by the ban.
“People spoke passionately about how these bans will affect them and their families, not just fishers but also seafood marketers and other related business operators.”
He said farmers were concerned about the effect on them, one local business had indicated that they could close after the current Barra season while there had also been nothing mentioned about compensation.
He said the meeting unanimously condemned the Federal and State Governments’ decision to ban long-standing forms of gillnet fishing in North Queensland and called on both Governments to sit down with fishers and other business operators to find an alternative management plan.
They also demanded continued access to fresh wild-caught fish like barramundi and threadfin salmon, Mr Green said.
“This is a strong message that the Federal and State Governments’ present plan is out of step with public sentiment in North Queensland and is not supported.”
He said the Federal and State Governments had issued a joint media release on June 5 – World Environment Day – announcing gillnet fishing would be banned in waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“This is management by media release,” Mr Green said. “There was zero consultation with industry before this shock decision was announced”.
“Gillnet fishing is completely sustainable and has been conducted in North Queensland waters for more than a century”.
“This decision has been taken to mollify the United Nations, specifically the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO”.
“Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with the head of UNESCO a year ago and secretly agreed to 10 high priority demands from UNESCO, including fishing bans and more controls on farming practices”.
“The threat from UNESCO is that, if Australia doesn’t meet UNESCO’s demands, it will declare the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage Site that’s ‘in danger’ and embarrass the Australian Government internationally”.
This has got the Government running scared.
“The fishing bans have just been sprung on us last month and farmers are yet to see what extra controls will be imposed on them”.
Mr Green said he would convey the decision of the public meeting to both the Federal and State Governments and work in conjunction with the Queensland Seafood Industry Association to contact relevant Government Ministers to try to find a better way manage the gillnet fishery without the planned bans.