Rec fishing on Election Day

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe– Recreational fishing on
  Election Day

By Tim Trollworthy  

QLD Election 2015

Well, dear Campbell really threw a spanner in the works announcing an unexpected early state election. Bloody inconsiderate given advertising campaigns we have been subjected to in the lead-up to the election, when in January we just wanted to slowly get back into work mode. So much for my prediction of the QLD fisheries review feeding into election policies in March.  

Understandably, publishing deadlines means our F&B February stories need to be submitted before the election date. However, I figure there is not much point in my doing a detailed assessment of what the major parties offer recreational fishers when you are likely reading this after the election. My previous articles have attested than I am no great fan of the major political parties – their respective track records on recreational fishing in the last 20 years are atrocious with the LNP making some recent inroads with the recent netting buyback and the unknown fisheries review outcomes. When in government, both major parties love the contribution to the Queensland economy that regional Queensland makes, but disproportionately they never give regional Queensland anywhere near the funding and resources that should be due to us. No matter what party is in, they each pork barrel voters in electorates they think they have a chance in and neglect the rest!

The Greens try to keep them honest and then have some out of left field policies which leaves me scratching my head, and then this year we have the hush PUPies vying for some seats with the mad Aussie hatters!

I am disillusioned with recreational fishing candidates who thrive on either knocking the commercial fishing sector or opposing marine protected areas when good science is showing that if responsibly introduced they are likely to be one of the greatest fisheries insurance mechanisms around. I haven’t had a close look at whether the Australian Sex Party nominated candidates in any regional Queensland seats, but I always tell the missus that on the policy platform of more often, much more often that if they could guarantee policy delivery at my place, they would get my vote for sure! There is usually plenty of fishing time for me in the weeks after an election, especially if I verbally dwell on this policy at home too much prior to an election!       

I think that you can be assured that jobs, infrastructure development, sale of state assets, and the state’s debt would have been paramount in the lead-up to the election. Unfortunately, in reality, the aspirations and woes of Queensland recreational fishers will likely have been little more than an annoying march fly on most Queensland politicians’ radar compared to these bigger cross community issues. The words “climate change” or the “environment” would not appear to be on any political agendas, except the greens. And if it’s a recreational fishing issue anywhere north of Maryborough well, we become a mere sandfly! Geez, in Cairns, recreational fishing issues shrink to a microscopic amoeba! (Sorry Paul.) Weipa, on the rec fishing front, it may as well be overseas. (Sorry Dave!) After all, if the current Queensland fisheries review had any real meaning to the future political landscape of Queensland, the Premier would have waited a month or two until the fisheries review recommendations had been assessed and “detailed” fisheries policies decided upon, before calling an election, wouldn’t he?

The controversy over the management and health of the Great Barrier Reef was a hot election topic particularly with the international World Heritage Commission shortly deciding whether the GBR should be listed as “in danger”. The current Queensland Government, whilst having reversed significant vegetation protection laws, advocated for more dams, and vowed to double Queensland’s agricultural land use by 2040, still wants to have us believe that they are doing all that they possibly can to improve water quality in the Reef region. Remember: improved water quality = healthy waterways and fish habitat = happy and healthy fish doing their thing! All the while, the latest Reef Outlook Report 2014 advises that the outlook for the Reef is poor, has worsened over the past five years and is expected to deteriorate in the future. Additionally, recent assessment of the joint Queensland and Australian Governments’ Draft Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan by a number of preeminent Australian coral reef scientists have said the plan will fail to protect the GBR in the longer term. What politician in Government now is ever going to be held accountable for their current policies and actions in 2050. What a cop out! There should be real Great Barrier Reef targets to meet in three to four years time!    

With the huge majority the LNP have in QLD, it would be unprecedented for Ms Palaszczuk (did I spell that right?) to gain power, but the arrogance of “can do” may well mean we have a new Premier. You will likely know if this is true by the time you read this article. I just know that I am so disappointed with our major parties (both State and Commonwealth) that if I have a decent independent in my electorate who is campaigning on some issues contributing towards healthy bays and rivers, I will probably go their way just to say “I voted for the fish”.   Regardless of who I voted for, if the LNP is back in for another three years, we have to continue the fight to make sure they make the fisheries review report publically available. Then the Fisheries Minister needs to want to listen to us again, as to what parts of the review they need to adopt and fund to bring fisheries management and monitoring in Queensland into the 21st century!  

QLD Snapper – It’s been reviewed and apparently its status can’t be defined!

Surprise! Surprise! In the month since my January story, the status of Queensland snapperappears to havechanged from beingofficially “overfished” to beingofficially “undefined”. Yep, can you believe it!? It’s a sad and sorry tale on how you can twist robust and responsible science to “avoid giving bad news” which all governments in Australia seemingly love to do at any cost. It is also partly related to insufficient Queensland Government dollars supporting our Queensland Fisheries scientists and managers. We’ve had near zero fishery management interventions on Queensland snapper in the past decade, despite dire assessments of the health of Queensland snapper. I can safely predict with snapper in Queensland now appearing officially “undefined”, regardless of the outcome of the election, there will be a snow-ball’s chance in hell of fisheries managers and stakeholders even publically discussing the need to rebuild snapper stocks, let alone introducing even a couple of the interventions of the type that have rebuilt snapper stocks in WA.

So how after all the information I provided to you on snapper last month, has this “reassessment” of the health of snapper occurred? Well, you can first of all be assured that is wasn’t on the basis of any “new or revised” stock assessment. You see, Fisheries Queensland has decided, probably most responsibly, with its skeleton resources that it can’t afford to produce annual fishery stock status reports for Queensland and then also contribute to the Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Report. Fisheries Queensland have therefore decided just to contribute to the 2014 overall Australian Report, which covers even fewer species than the Queensland stock status reports they produced in recent years.

Queensland snapper is part of the east coast stock of snapper which also covers snapper in NSW and eastern Victoria. The 2014 Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Report only assesses fish stocks at a stock level. In the fine print of this recent report it still refers to “declines in catches and catch rates of Queensland snapper and it is likely that the Queensland part of the stock is still recruitment overfished”.   But with no combined stock assessment of snapper from QLD, NSW and eastern Victoria, the report has classified the whole snapper stock as “undefined”. A combined stock assessment across the eastern states is being considered for funding, but given the lack of fisheries management intervention in the past decade when the species has been recognised as “overfished”, one must cynically query the value of using public funds in Queensland to undertake such an assessment when nothing in terms of responsible snapper fisheries management intervention has ever resulted.

Unfortunately, in the official Australian and Queensland fisheries science and management world, regardless of the above Queensland specific text, Queensland snapper in December 2014 officially became part of the “undefined” East Coast Biological Stock of snapper. The December 2014 Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Report now effectively has provided the Queensland Government with the opportunity to officially say that there are no over-fished fish stocks in this state! What a disappointing way, either deliberate or otherwise, for the scientifically valid concerns for Queensland snapper to be swept under the carpet. If only sustainable fisheries management were as easy as moving the goal posts from month to month as appears to have happened!

Finally, while still on my soap box, a topic that is dear to most angler’s hearts and which I have no doubt we have heard few solutions to in the election lead-up petrol prices. I just spent most of January down with the Mexican rellies and paid as low as $1.07 a litre for regular unleaded. Can you believe it!? It was dearer in SEQ, but down there it is nothing like what we pay in the north. Even giving the fuel companies’ a “5-7 cent excuse” to distribute it to us regional Queenslanders, we surely are being taken for a ride!

Mmmm….. what’s that mushy stuff under your new thongs? Well, when you walk out of any petrol station in regional Queensland it generally smells like dog crap and it looks like dog crap … and I’m telling you, without any doubt, that it is dog crap! Only problem is that it should be caked all over the floor of the offices of the multinational oil companies in our southern capital cities, but apparently … down there … it doesn’t stink!      

Happy Valentine’s Day fellas and gals,