FISHING

.   ‘The Mercury’ – Friday July 17th, 1998

The state government has a social and economic responsibility towards all the Tasmanian people, not just a handful of professional fishermen.

By endorsing the current increased restrictions on amateur fishermen, it is both reducing their rights to catch fish for their families, as well as risking people’s lives by forcing them out after dark to remove nets out of the water.

Who will take the blame when the first father, son or daughter is drowned after dark? The Government or its departmental heads?

Small trawlers operating in our inshore coastal bays and estuaries, which have been traditionally the domain of amateur fishermen, are catching our fish, at a far greater rate than a few nets left by amateurs in the water overnight.

With the amateur fishery expenditure worth nearly $50 million a year, combined with its impact as a tourism drawcard, it is short-sighted of our government to vote in favour of a few professionals who return less to the state and usually have larger vessels which are better equipped to work further offshore.

With the amateurs’ occasional fishing trip, it would take the efforts of hundreds of amateurs many years to take out the volume of fish these vessels can catch in a few nights.

With nearly 20,000 amateur fishing licences, has the fisheries department simply used the millions of dollars in amateur licence fees to fatten its budgets with little regard for the real owners of our marine resource, the Tasmanian people?

With a fair licencing system in place, it should be considered our birthright to be able to catch our fish to eat.

It won’t be long, with the current thinking, before our weekend amateur will be banned from netting and there will be no viable numbers of large flathead left to warrant baiting a hook.

Our state Government should be protecting the rights of our amateur fishermen and encouraging the professionals to work in harmony and find a way to safely share some of the resource with the amateurs without risking lives.