New State Government restrictions on the amount of snapper caught by Commonwealth-licensed trawl fishers will have a huge impact on the viability of the Lakes Entrance Fishing Co-operative, according to Eastern Region MP Peter Hall.
The Nationals MP is now calling on the State Government to overhaul its planned restrictions for Commonwealth-licensed commercial trawl fishers which involve enforcing a 50 kilogram limit on the amount of snapper by-product caught by the trawlers in one trip.
“The new restrictions have many commercial fishermen in East Gippsland rightly frustrated,” Mr Hall said. “These fishermen are not targeting snapper but some of this species of fish inevitably gets caught up in their nets.”
Speaking in parliament this week Mr Hall said the DPI’s proposal could affect the viability of the Lakes Entrance Co-op.
“Just this week one of the bigger trawlers that fish out of that port landed a catch of 13,000 kilograms of fish, of which 130 kilograms – only one per cent – was snapper,” Mr Hall said.
“If there were a 50 kilogram limit on the amount of by-catch then the options available to that trawler would be to either dump 80 kilograms of fresh premium snapper overboard, to come to port and take the risk of being fined and a potential loss of licence, or the more likely outcome of taking the catch to Eden in New South Wales.
“If that were to occur, it would have a significant impact on the viability of the fishing cooperative at Lakes Entrance.”
Mr Hall said the option of throwing good fish overboard seemed like such a waste.
“The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association says this will result in 10 tonnes of snapper off Lakes Entrance being discarded at sea, and all will be dead,” he said.
But Mr Hall believes there is a solution which involves establishing a management zone outside of Port Phillip Bay during certain times of the year.
Mr Hall has asked the Minister for Agriculture Joe Helper, to not persist with the 50 kilogram by-catch limit universally across Victorian waters.
“If there are any restrictions at all then those restrictions should be confined to trawlers operating in a management zone outside of Port Phillip Bay only,” Mr Hall said.
“As all Commonwealth vessels are subject to electronic vessel monitoring, it’s not a difficult task to impose a by-catch limit purely on those who fish in that area outside Port Phillip Bay.”