UNEASE: Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner.
UNEASE: Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner. Kevin Farmer

Fishing industry concerned about vessel tracking system

A REBATE scheme to help fishers with the costs of buying and installing compulsory vessel tracking units began last week, but not everyone is happy.

Some in the industry are worried about "devastating” knock-on effects of the new system and believe the government is "barking up the wrong tree” when it comes to aiding commercial fishermen.

Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the government had partnered with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to make up to $3 million available to help in the implementation of vessel tracking.

"The rebate will be available until December 31, 2020 for all commercial fishing boat, harvest and charter licence holders,” Mr Furner said.

He said as part of Queensland's Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, all commercial and charter boats would require vessel tracking by 2020 with net, line and crab boats to have vessel tracking units installed and operational from January 1 next year.

Whitsunday Fishing World owner Bob Spees said he was concerned the introduction of tracking units would have a "devastating” effect on the region's fishing industry.

"It's an invasion of people's privacy,” he said.

"It's totally unacceptable - all the professional fisherman are just not happy about it.

"If the government is worried about boats going into green zones, why don't they just say that?”

Mr Spees said the tracking system displayed a "total lack of trust” from the government.

"The professional fishers aren't going to stuff up their own back yard,” he said.

"Many of them are scared to speak up, but I know they're upset about it because they've been telling me.”

Mr Spees believed many operators would consider leaving the industry because of increasing costs to run their boats.

"There's a need for commercial operators, and up on here on the Whitsundays it seems to run fine and we're all working together,” he said.

Professional fisherman Keith Brennan, who has operated commercially in the area for the past 13 years, said the government was "barking up the wrong tree”.

He said he would not be "100% against” the devices if there was a safety element involved.

"I'd like somebody to know where I am all the time,” Mr Brennan said.

"But they've said they're not there for your safety - they're there so they know what's going on.

"If it had a safety aspect I would say it could be a good venture, but because it's an ankle bracelet I think its discriminatory and shouldn't be allowed. And if it is allowed, I think they should foot the bill.”

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chair Dr Russell Reichelt said they were pleased to contribute the scheme.

"The Great Barrier Reef Blueprint for Resilience highlights our support for implementing vessel tracking on all commercial fishing vessels operating in the Marine Park,” Dr Reichelt said.

"We believe vessel tracking is an important step to increasing compliance with Marine Park zoning rules. Given that accumulated pressures are impacting the Reef's resilience, the benefits of protecting no-take zones by enhancing compliance are more important than ever before.”

Commercial fishers can apply to the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority for reimbursement, with approved vessel tracking units purchased from June 1, 2018 would be eligible for a rebate.


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