Happy men: Lance Murray (left) and Geoff Walsh celebrate the news of the net-free zones at the River St boat ramp yesterday.
Happy men: Lance Murray (left) and Geoff Walsh celebrate the news of the net-free zones at the River St boat ramp yesterday. Tony Martin

Government set to approve new net-free zones

LANCE Murray and Geoff Walsh feel like they've won the lotto.

After 16 years of campaigning by the Mackay Recreational Fishing Alliance members, the state government yesterday finalised a plan to create three net-free zones off the Queensland coast.

"From the recreational and tourism point of view, this is akin to having six numbers come out of the lotto," Mr Murray said.

"But it's wise not to spend the money until it is in the bank."

The zone closures, at Mackay, Cairns and Rockhampton, are targeted at boosting the recreational fishing industry to increase tourism.

"This is really a gift to our grandchildren," Mr Walsh said.

"We've spent 16 years punching this program and we are very hopeful it will have the support it needs in parliament."

More than 6300 public submissions were made about the proposal, and while state fisheries minister Bill Byrne said 90% supported the change, two net-free zone boundaries were changed based on the responses.

"At Seaforth the boundary of the zone has been amended slightly to align with the local dugong protection area," Mr Byrne said.

"The boundary for the Capricorn Coast zone has also been altered to reduce the overall size of the area while still including the waters of Keppel Bay and the Fitzroy River."

The idea will be tabled in parliament, where Queensland Seafood Industry Association executive officer Eric Perez said it should face opposition.

Mr Perez said the industry body was planning to table a petition against the restricted zones.

"The release of our petition will be strategic," Mr Perez said.

"We are not telling how many signatures we have at the moment but it is a significant number. A lot more than 90% of 6300."

Mr Perez also called into question the public submissions collected by the government.

"There was no demographic filter. If people didn't live in Queensland they could put in a submission," he said.

"Also people were able to put in repeat submissions."

While the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will soon be writing and offering to meet with commercial fishers about the changes, Mr Perez said the consultation so far had been lacking.

"What he (Mr Byrne) calls consultation wasn't consultation," Mr Perez said.

"Consultation is people being able to speak across the table, and that is not what has happened."

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