Net free fishing ban areas extended in Gulf

Fraser Barton |

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said announcing more gillnet-free zones would provide some certainty.
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said announcing more gillnet-free zones would provide some certainty.

Net-free fishing areas are set to be expanded in the Gulf of Carpentaria, removing an “indiscriminate killer” of endangered marine life.

More zones banning gillnet fishing will be enforced by the Queensland government as part of structural changes to commercial fishing from the state’s west coast to the Northern Territory border.

Gillnet fishing involves using fine-meshed nets at river mouths or estuaries.

The state government first announced they would enact Gulf protections late last year when they vowed to phase it out.

The design and location of the Gulf’s additional gillnet-free areas are yet to be finalised but will be policed from May 17.

“We’re announcing there will be additional gillnet-free zones to give as much certainty to commercial fishers and communities as we can while we work through the remaining issues,” Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said.

Public consultation for proposed future zoning options via a discussion paper was held last year, with the government receiving 4104 survey responses.

A majority supported additional net-free zones, the government said.

It is estimated just over 2.5 per cent of Queensland seafood comes from gillnet fishing.

However banning net fishing in more Gulf areas will protect threatened species, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said.

“Gillnets are indiscriminate killers that entangle and drown endangered species, such as dugongs, turtles, sawfish and river sharks,” AMCS scientist Leonardo Guida said.

“These animals are not just iconic, but are of cultural significance to many traditional owners in Queensland.”

Dr Guida said the state government decision was a positive step that would improve commercial fisheries’ environmental sustainability.

“But also the health of the environment, and by extension, the wellbeing of a lot of (Gulf) communities…particularly traditional owner communities that rely on a healthy Gulf of Carpentaria for cultural practices and food security,” he told AAP.

A combined $185 million investment by the state and federal governments is set to phase out gillnet fishing from areas across Queensland by 2027.

Transition arrangements for gillnet fishers began on January 1, 2024.

The state government will roll out $90 million in compensation for fishers in areas on Queensland’s east coast with up to $125 million for deck hands and industries involved in the commercial fishing sector.

Katter’s Australia Party said the economic effects of gillnet bans would be felt throughout far northwest coastal communities.

“Eighty per cent of the Gulf’s commercial fishing sector, which supports untold local jobs and injects significant economic activity into the region, will be destroyed overnight with the confirmation of the bans,” KAP leader Robbie Katter said. 

“The epicentre of that fallout will be Karumba, which is a town built essentially on commercial fishing.”