8 May 2024

Government sets date for Gulf gillnet changes as Kowanyama zone added

| Cape York Weekly
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New gillnet fishing changes come into effect on 17 May, with the announcement dividing the commercial fishing industry, politicians and environmental groups. Photo: Cape York Weekly.

The State Government announcement gillnet fishing will be banned in areas of the Gulf of Carpentaria and western Cape York from 17 May has divided the fishing industry, politicians and environmental groups.

The government provided details on a $12 million “adjustment and support package” for commercial fishers impacted by the changes last week, but the plan has been ridiculed by Katter’s Australian Party leader Robbie Katter.

“Without any scientific backing, the fisheries minister has pulled the rug from under hard-working and law-abiding fishing businesses,” he said on 3 May.

“What other business would accept 14 days’ notice to the operating environment under which they operate?”

Three of the five areas will impact western Cape York fishers: the Northern Gulf of Carpentaria zone, which includes all waters within the defined area from Boyd Point north to Cape York; the Pormpuraaw zone, capturing all waters within the defined area from north of Balurga Creek to south of the Chapman River; and the Topsy Creek zone, which covers all waters within the defined area between north of the South Mitchell River to south of Horse Creek.

READ ALSO Fisherman defends gillnets: We don’t go to work to kill needlessly

The announcement the Topsy Creek zone would become the fifth gillnet-free area has been welcomed by Kowanyama community leader Michael Yam, who said he believed the changes would benefit the local river system.

“Including Topsy Creek in the new net-free zones is a good outcome for the Kowanyama community,” he said.

“These river systems are an important food source for our community and of high cultural importance.

“Removing commercial gillnet fishing ensures we can get a feed and protects our local wildlife.”

While the government said the changes were being implemented after a “rigorous consultation process”, one Gulf of Carpentaria commercial operator who spoke to Cape York Weekly on the condition of anonymity said the $12m package was “complete bullshit”.

“The [commercial fishing] industry is being made out as the bloody crooks in all this,” they said.

“What are we going to do with $12 million bucks?

“It shows the government doesn’t understand what we do, and it’s gonna cause the death of a lot of Gulf fishing businesses and communities.”

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