Federal Government Revokes Queensland State-Run Fishing License

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
September 8, 2020Updated: September 8, 2020

The federal environment minister will revoke the fishing license of a state-run Queensland fishery for failing to meet the conditions of the permit relating to the implementation of the Harvest Strategy it agreed to in 2018.

Environment Minister Susan Ley wrote to Queensland’s Agricultural Minister Mark Furner on Sunday, to revoke the state government’s permit for the Queensland Government-managed East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (ECIFFF) from Sept. 30.

The Palaszczuk government has failed to reform its sustainable fisheries laws to protect threatened species under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act that the state and federal authorities agreed upon two years ago.

“It is deeply disappointing that the reforms underpinning these conditions have stalled and momentum has been lost in progress towards the sustainable management of this fishery,” Ley wrote.

Ley acknowledged the impact that revoking the permit would have on the commercial fishing sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the Queensland government to support the industry.

“I expect this will exacerbate the already difficult operating environment for those fishers who are affected. Therefore, I suggest the Queensland government will need to consider how it could ameliorate those impacts,” Ley wrote.

A spokesperson from Ley’s office told The Epoch Times that the Queensland government confirmed in writing that it had not complied with conditions on the WTO declaration for the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery—and that means the declaration must be revoked.

“Queensland was required to implement a harvest strategy for the fishery by January 2020 that monitored and managed the fishery’s impacts on target species, by-product (non-target fish species of commercial value) and bycatch (including protected species like turtle and dugong),” Ley’s spokesperson said.

Other unmet conditions included failing to ensure all shark caught commercially were able to be identified at the species level.

“This is because a number of shark species are threatened and protected under international wildlife trade laws,” the spokesperson said via email.

The Epoch Times reached out to Queensland’s agricultural minister but did not receive a response in time for publishing.

Queensland’s commercial fishing industry produces an average of 18,459 tonnes of seafood per year since 2014, valued at approximately $185 million.

The largest fishery in the state is the East Coast Inshore Finfish Fishery, whose catches in the commercial range from 6,000 to 7,500 tonnes per year.

The industry’s commercial net, line, pot, and trawl-based fisheries are comprised of three significant species groups; crustaceans, finfish, and molluscs.

The Humane Society (HSI) welcomed the ban, saying in a media release that it would prevent the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery from exporting products including hammerhead shark fins and black jewfish bladders used in traditional Chinese medicine.

“Minister Sussan Ley has made the right decision. An Australian fishery cannot be allowed to continue operating at such a poor standard, particularly when it is happening in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” said Nicola Beynon, HSI head of campaigns.

“Poor practices in the ECIFFF have led to the deaths of thousands of endangered sharks, sawfish, dugongs, dolphins, and turtles on the Great Barrier Reef,” the group claimed.

The Palaszczuk government is considering its response, saying it had taken significant steps to ensure the state maintains a sustainable commercial and recreational fishing industry.

“This has included passing the most significant fisheries reform legislation in decades and working through extensive consultations with all facets of the industry over the last five years,” Furner said in a statement.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, revised management arrangements were introduced on July 1, 2009, to tighten up net attendance rules and give formal direction to the shark component of the fishery.

Commercial operators are authorised to use specialised gear within prescribed areas. Gear limitations include restrictions on the number of nets, net design, length, and mesh size. There are also rules about the deployment and attendance of nets.

This article has been updated to include comments by a spokesperson for Environment Minister Susan Ley.