SEAFOOD BLACKMARKET: Public's plea for harsher penalties
CALLS for heavier penalties to address the seafood blackmarket and for stronger compliance powers are growing, with results from a public fisheries survey showing more than 90 per cent of participants want a change in strategy.
More than 230 people took part in the nine-week survey about proposed changes to the Fisheries Act 1994.
A spokesperson for the Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the proposed modernisation of the act was a requirement of the implementation of the State Government's Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27.
"Blackmarketing has the potential to undermine the viability of commercial fishing, impact on legitimate seafood businesses and lead to unsustainable fishing practices," they said.
NewsMail's fishing columnist said even though illegal fishing wasn't something Bundaberg locals heard of overly often, "there are cases where it happens and those people need to be punished".
"Increasing the penalty is all we can do," he said.
Following the survey's closure on May 20, the department reviewed and collated the responses in a detailed report available online.
The results revealed more than 80 per cent of participants agreed that the act be updated and that it should recognise the interests of key stakeholders.
"Additionally, more than 55 per cent of respondents agreed that the roles of the minister responsible for fisheries and the chief executive in managing Queensland's fisheries be clarified, and that more responsive decision-making through the use of harvest strategies be allowed for," the spokesperson for Mr Furner said.
In June 2017, the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27 was released in an effort to develop a world-class management system.
Proposed changes in the act include modernising its objectives, clarifying relevant ministers' roles and strengthening enforcement powers and penalties.
"More than 84 per cent of respondents agreed that a reduction in complexity ... (was also) required," the spokesperson for Mr Furner said.
He said with "serious evidence that illegal fishing operations (were) becoming more sophisticated and organised", there was a need to amend the current act so it could facilitate the effectiveness of the State Government's fisheries strategy.
"Some people expressed concern that possession limits might change (with the amended act) ... However ... the proposal is only for Fisheries Queensland to be able to adjust possession limits if it is outlined in the pre-agreed harvest strategy," the spokesperson for Mr Furner said.
The State Government will consider the survey results when drafting a bill to amend the Fisheries Act 1994, which is scheduled for Parliamentary consideration later this year.