Mackerel science ’fishy’

Charter operator Trekka Two with a couple of nice Spanish mackerel and sweetlip. Picture: CONTRIBUTED.

Big cuts in commercial fishing quotas affecting waterfront, marine, tourism and hospitality industries from Mooloolaba to the Gulf of Carpentaria are based on “fake science,“ state parliament has been told.

Opposition shadow fisheries minister Tony Perrett backed a motion by Katters Australian Party leader Robbie Katter to disallow new and allegedly crushing restrictions on Spanish mackerel and bar rock cod catches, also backing claims that the new restrictions were based on politics rather than science.

He said the new rules would impact “restaurants, ice manufacturers, retailers, net makers, wholesalers, fish and chip shops, cold storage, transport, tourism and hospitality-based businesses“.

The sudden claimed decline in a fishery said to have still been scientifically “sustainable“ only three years ago showed either that it had not been sustainable at all, or that the new science was wrong.

“This at at best showed incompetent management by the fisheries department, for which minister Mark Furner was “culpable,“ Mr Perrett said.

He and Mr Katter said the mackerel stock status had first been rated at a “sustainable biomass of 40 per cent“ in 2017, a status now said to have dropped to an unsustainable 17 per cent.

But no-one could say how the 17 per cent figure was arrived at.

Mr Katter said the new rules would destroy what had been “a sustainable business run off a renewable resource that has been there forever.

“The Queensland government, through the fisheries department, has been saying, ‘You’re allowed to have 600 tonnes,“ but the industry had only taken half that in recent years.

Yet this was said to have “smashed the fishery“.

He said it was hard to find any other explanation than one consistent with a government saying, “Let’s just find an industry to sacrifice at the altar of the environmentalists“.

The department had “deceptively“ claimed its research was peer reviewed, without adding that one of the peer reviewers had strongly disagreed with the allegedly scientific conclusion.

“This is not working off the science; it is fake science. It drives people crazy because it does not reconcile with what is happening on the ground, and it drives uncertainty and distrust of government.“

Mr Furner said the criticisms reflected industry interests but the government needed “to listen to the experts and the science when it comes to fisheries management.“

“We may not always like what we hear, but there are real risks and concerns that fisheries will become depleted and unsustainable if we do not manage them well.

“I want to see a fisheries sector that is here for the next generation and the generation thereafter.

“To allow Spanish mackerel stocks to rebuild, a number of new management measures were introduced for the commercial, recreational and charter fisher sectors. For bar rock cod, a new commercial quota limit was introduced in accordance with the pre-defined management trigger in the coral reef finfish fishery harvest strategy.

“All of these measures were critical to ensure the future sustainability of our fisheries resources,“ he said.

Mr Katter’s motion was lost on party lines.