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"We only fish 7% of our fishery, and with the Marine Reserve plan they want to take 2% of that 7%, and that 2% just happens to be the best fishing grounds!!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"One Canberra official recently told me that if they get it wrong and need to review some of these decisions in the future, they could. That’s easy for him to say but it also shows that he doesn’t understand that by then the fishing businesses will have been ruined, the skilled fishermen and crews gone."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To me we are being sacrificed so Australia can boast that nearly 60% of the world’s marine reserves are in our waters. Why does Australia have to sacrifice so much?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“All we need is a 30 mile strip, which equates to between 3 to 4% of the area they want to ban us from – and that will mean we stay in business and the taxpayer not only saves money by not having to buy us out, but is also allowed to continue to enjoy the pleasure of the best King Prawns in the world."

EAST: MEET THE FISHERS

 

Brian and Nathan Corbett – Prawn Fishermen – Cairns

Brian Corbett, a prawn fisherman for 43 years, has almost had enough of the fishing industry he loves.

“It’s just about run us into the ground. I started from nothing, and we built a business I was proud of. When I came into the prawn fishing there were 400 boats, now there are less than 50.

Brian’s wife, Helen, runs the office and their son, Nathan, skippers the boat and has started a business selling wild-caught prawns to locals and tourists via the internet www.prawnsales.com.

“I am not joking, today it’s just a battle to survive. And now they want to take away the best fishing grounds. We only fish 7% of our fishery, and with the Marine Reserve plan they want to take 2% of that 7%, and that 2% just happens to be the best fishing grounds!!

“It’s pretty obvious that if you are on a good wage, sitting in Canberra the decision to take away grounds in the Gulf of Carpentaria, looks good, it’s not going to make any difference to you, but if you are me and my son, well it bloody does.

“We catch beautiful wild ocean caught prawns – bananas and wonderful tigers – and at every turn, there’s someone trying to make it harder and harder …over the years I have spent a fortune just to stay in business and meet the ever changing demands of the government – buy-outs, changes to the boat you can have, then its changes to the gear, new plans for quota and now the marine reserve lock out hanging over us, not to mention the price of fuel, and the fight to get a good price for prawns caught in some of the most pristine waters of the world..…it never stops.

“This Northern Prawn Fishery is one of the most sustainable prawn fisheries in the world, and I am proud of it. I love doing what I do, and doing it well, and so does my son, but soon it’s just not going to be worth being in the business. I know that will make many people happy, but where are we going to get our prawns from – from over seas?…and just how sustainable are those fisheries?

“I just can’t see a wonderful future. I just think I should take my beautiful wife and go have some fun. But there’s my young guy to consider – the truth is he would be battling to ever buy the business.”

 

   
  
Brian and Nathan Corbett  

   

Paul, Michael and Nick Williams – King Prawns & Fish
Mooloolaba Qld

Brothers, Paul and Michael, and Michael’s son Nick, make up the Williams family fishing business and it’s the proposed massive Coral Sea Reserve that threatens their future. They believe that it is politics driving the vast lock up rather than science.

“ I am not against everything that is being proposed, but there are so many restrictions and changes, that it is difficult to really know all the impacts and to truly work out the price we are all going to pay in the future.

“But what I do know is this – we have a relatively new albacore fishery, strictly managed by quota, and now we will be unable to use the quota in the Coral Sea area – because they don’t want long lining, despite the science allowing it in the yellow zones in the other marine reserves around Australia - so this will force fishermen to move to other grounds, putting more pressure on existing stocks.

“If the government doesn’t accept the Industry refinements it will take the flexibility out of fishing, it will totally destroy opportunities to fish in the future and will most likely lead to the closing down of a number of unloading facilities. It just makes the whole business of fishing uncertain and really turns it into a nightmare.

“The Coral Sea is so remote from the Australian public that they can’t really understand the size and impact of this proposed reserve. And I think it’s not just the public that doesn’t fully appreciate the impact. One Canberra official recently told me that if they get it wrong and need to review some of these decisions in the future, they could. That’s easy for him to say but it also shows that he doesn’t understand that by then the fishing businesses will have been ruined, the skilled fishermen and crews gone.

“We are a third generation fishing family. We take pride in our catch – in fact the other night my brother and our wives were at a local Greek restaurant – we had some bloody beautiful grilled king prawns – I joked and said these are that good they could be off our boat, and so when I was paying I asked the owner where she got the prawns. Her reply: the “Lady Beatrice” and added she always tried to get her prawns from that boat. The Lady Beatrice is our boat. That certainly topped off a great night out for all of us.

The Lady Beatrice also catches and wholesales under its brand - bugs, squid, scallop and cuttlefish. The long-liner, Samurai, catches albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, swordfish, striped marlin, mahi mahi, and wahoo.

“I just want people to really think about this issue and not agree with changes because it gives them a ‘warm, I am looking after the environment feeling’. It doesn’t make sense to me to deny future fishing opportunities, we need to use our logic to continue to sustainably manage and harvest our good resources of fish to supply Australians with their own seafood now and in the future, when demand is going to be even higher.

   
 
On the Wharf: L-R Paul, Mike and Nick WilliamsOn the boat: L-R Nick, Mike and PaulNick Williams (blue T-shirt) unloading the catch with his crew
   

   
Tony Lavalle – Ling, Flathead, Snapper & John Dory
Ulladulla and Bermagui

The Lavalle brothers – Tony and Charlie- catch some of the finest table fish Australia has to offer, and a selection of their fresh harvest lands on the plates of guests at Rick Steins at Bannisters, a relaxed hotel on the NSW South Coast.

Rick Stein, the internationally renowned seafood lover, is just one of the many chefs and restaurant owners who rely on fishermen like Tony and Charlie to supply fresh fish.

And just take a wander through the Sydney Fish Markets and you will see the brother’s fresh harvest including ling, flathead, snapper, John Dory and more, on show at many of the leading retailers.

Tony and Charlie followed their father Joseph’s footsteps into the fishing business as teenagers. Joseph was 12 when he started fishing with his father Antonio, who migrated to Australia from Italy in the early 1930’s looking for a new start for his young family based on hard work and fair play.

Antonio was a pioneer of the fishing industry around Ulladulla and today his grandsons are facing the prospect of leaving their homes and moving their families further south to stay in business catching the same fish

“ There is no fisherman I know who does not want to fish sustainably – it’s our livelihood – we want the fish to thrive now, and in the future, so our kids can follow in our footsteps, like we followed our father,” says Tony.

“But after fishing in this area for more than 65 years we are going to be kicked out and this makes it hard for my two sons, Joseph and Rocky, to follow the family tradition.

“ I simply don’t see how the marine reserves will make the fish stocks more sustainable – fish have tails, they swim where they want – it is not like putting cows in a paddock with a fence around them.

“If the Government gets its way we will have to leave our home and move further south to continue fishing, this will put significantly more pressure on the fishing grounds and stocks down south, increase tensions and competition between fishermen, have impact on the different quotas we have purchased for different species ….and I am still not sure what will be gained.

“To me we are being sacrificed so Australia can boast that nearly 60% of the world’s marine reserves are in our waters. Why does Australia have to sacrifice so much?

And the other question Tony can’t help but ask is - do people really understand the affect all this will have on their ability to choose fresh Australian fish to eat?


Proud fisherman, Tony Lavalle

Unloading the catch
 
   
   
Stephen and Greg Murphy – King Prawns and Scallops
Hervey Bay

Family fishing businesses are the backbone of the fishing industry and many small coastal communities. Stephen and Greg Murphy have a classic tale to tell; their father Barry bought the first trawler in 1984, and the boys started working on the boat when they left school, and eventually took over the business that catches King Prawns and Scallops.

The business now operates six boats and employs 40 people in the area. The family built the first four boats and named them after the grandchildren – Madison, Benjamin, Joseph and Emma.

The Government’s marine reserve proposal has the potential to make them unprofitable, which will obviously close the business.

The problem Stephen and Greg have with the Government’s marine reserve proposal is that it bans them from fishing in 20% of their traditional grounds in the Coral Sea. These grounds produce the very big King Prawns – the most prized and most valuable part of the harvest – the part of the harvest that ensures they are profitable.

And in reality the loss of fishing grounds is more likely to be 30% of this important area due to the fishing logistics involved to ensure they do not encroach on the protected 20%.

“The Government is banning trawling in the area, despite the fact that trawling is allowed in the World Heritage Listed waters in the Great Barrier Reef and the scientific evidence that shows the impact of trawling is small, given the reduction of effort and the small area trawled at any time.

“All we need is a 30 mile strip, which equates to between 3 to 4% of the area they want to ban us from – and that will mean we stay in business and the taxpayer not only saves money by not having to buy us out, but is also allowed to continue to enjoy the pleasure of the best King Prawns in the world.

With the high Australian dollar, 50% of the catch goes direct to Sydney, and almost all of the rest is split between Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“I just want the Government to be reasonable and for people to take the time find out how our fisheries are managed so they are better informed and not as willing to just close off areas to fishing,” said Stephen.

   

Left to right: Greg, Barry and Stephen Murphy

The Murphy's harvestKing Prawns