Fisheries Minister Mark Furner says legislation which passed Parliament today will strengthen compliance powers for fishing patrol officers and crackdown on black-market operators.
However, the Opposition has raised concern about compulsory GPS tracking of commercial fishing vessels.
“Vessel tracking is widely used in other Australian and international fisheries,” Mr Furner said.
“It gives authorities better information on what vessels are doing and where they are operating.”
Mr Furner revealed in Parliament yesterday there are now approximately 1300 units that have been purchased, with almost 550 activated, registered with Fisheries Queensland and polling.
“Since 1 January this year, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol has focused on educating fishers and improving awareness of the new vessel-tracking obligations,” he said.
“Vessel tracking will help secure the future of our commercial fisheries and clearly demonstrate that they are sustainable and compliant.”
In a statement today, Mr Furner said the Fisheries (Sustainable Fisheries) Bill introduced “real changes” in fisheries management.
“These changes are a critical step in providing the legacy of a sustainable fishery for our children and grandchildren and protecting jobs in our commercial and recreational fishing industries,” he said.
“More compliance officers are patrolling our waters and black marketers are being shut down as part of the most sweeping reforms of Queensland’s fishing sector in our state's history.
“We're cracking down on black marketing and pushing forward with greater recognition of recreational, commercial and indigenous fishing interests.”
Vessel tracking causes angst
Bundaberg MP David Batt told Parliament today the vessel monitoring system (VMS) compliance requirements had created much angst and concern in the fishing industry.
“The rollout of the trackers has been ludicrous. There are numerous examples of faulty VMS responders and general mismanagement,” he said.
“Fishermen are not permitted to go out and fish while their VMS is broken or non-operational.
“Fishing is how these people make a living, yet they are prohibited from doing so because of a government fault. This is completely unacceptable to them, and so it should be.”
Mr Batt said commercial fishers were also concerned their intellectual property could be misused.
“This intelligence is often built up over years of experience and has a high commercial value,” he said.
“Fishers' knowledge of the ideal spot and the time to make a catch needs to be protected, just like any business interest.
“The penalties for misusing or sharing the information unlawfully should attract the same significant penalties as a commercial fisher would receive for breaching VMS compliance.”
Fisheries Queensland says the data will only be used internally and will be securely stored.
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