Proposed Gillnet Ban Raises Concerns Over Christmas Seafood Supply

by Ella

As Australians prepare for the festive season, a proposed gillnet ban in Queensland is causing unease within the fishing industry and threatening the availability of popular Christmas seafood options.

The Queensland government’s plan to establish net-free zones in the Gulf of Carpentaria aims to prohibit the use of gillnets in specific waters. The intended purpose of the gillnet ban is to enhance the protection of marine life in the Great Barrier Reef, including dolphins, turtles, and dugongs, and to promote the recovery of local fish populations.


The primary impact of the proposed ban would be felt in barramundi and grey mackerel fishing, as well as other sought-after holiday staples like grunter, mullet, and king salmon.


Amid the uncertainty surrounding the impending ban, some fishing operators have already chosen not to send their boats out.


Allan Bobbermen, the president of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QISA), expressed concerns about the noticeable difference in seafood availability for consumers in New South Wales and Victoria this Christmas. He highlighted the potential reduction in barramundi, king threadfin, and other essential species traditionally relied upon during the holiday season.


“From a fisherman’s point of view, they want to enjoy what they can eat this Christmas because from the end of this year, it is no longer going to become readily available from the east coast fishery in Queensland,” Mr. Bobbermen stated.

However, he reassured that fish and chip shops across the eastern states should still have some reef fish available.

David Caracciolo, owner of Mackay Fish Market, emphasized the significant impact on markets in Melbourne and Sydney, which are crucial for the Queensland seafood industry. He predicted empty shelves for consumers in the southern states, with specific mention of the absence of fresh mackerel and inshore fish like king salmon.

While the Northern Territory supplies some seafood to New South Wales and Victoria, distance remains a significant barrier for the interstate market. Mr. Caracciolo pointed out the reliance on the east coast fishery due to the geographical challenges.

Chloe Bauer, the managing director of Bowen Fisherman’s Seafood, expressed concerns about the potential scarcity of wild-caught estuary fish this summer. The uncertainty around the new regulations has created ambiguity about whether catches will be prohibited, impacting the availability of barramundi, threadfin, and blue salmon.

Natalie Fitzgerald from Debbie’s Seafood in Mackay echoed the sentiment, mentioning the absence of Christmas favorites like mullet and king salmon from their specials board due to the lack of clarity around the proposed gillnet ban.

Despite these challenges, there is a silver lining for seafood enthusiasts. David Caracciolo anticipates an ample supply of peeled prawns and boiled bugs for the holidays. He also mentioned a potential easing of the hangover from the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a softening in prawn prices.

As the industry awaits a decision on the gillnet ban, Australians may need to adjust their Christmas seafood expectations, with a focus on crustaceans like lobsters, crabs, prawns, and oysters being more readily available during the festive season.



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