A great Australian tradition is seafood at Christmas time. We have some of the best fresh seafood in the world.
A great tradition at the Parliament is the annual Nationals seafood BBQ. It was started by Senator Ron Boswell around 30 years ago to remind our Parliamentarians and media of how important our local seafood industry is. This week we restarted the tradition post-COVID.
The need for the reminder is becoming more important. Over the past few decades Australia has closed massive amounts of oceans and rivers reducing the amount of seafood available to all Australians. Here in CQ, commercial net fishing has been banned along the Fitzroy and around the Keppels. That has taken a third of the wild barramundi caught in eastern Australia off the market.
The result of all these fishing bans has not been to save the environment, we have instead just imported seafood from other countries with poorer environmental practices.
Australia has the third largest ocean reserves in the world with a relatively small population. So you would think that we should be able to provide Australians with a bounty of fresh seafood.
Despite our abundant natural resources, we import 70 per cent of our seafood from other countries. We are only the 57th largest producer of seafood in the world.
We instead import most of our seafood from China, Thailand and Vietnam who all extract fish from their oceans much more intensively than we do. The numbers are shocking.
Australia extracts 28 kilograms of seafood per square kilometre of ocean. China, Thailand and Vietnam all have extraction rates almost 200 times higher at over 5000 kilograms of seafood per square kilometre.
Our green activists think they are saving the world by shutting down local commercial fishermen. Instead, they are just exporting the problem of overfishing to other countries.
This counterproductive cycle is repeating itself again with the Queensland Government's decision to slash the quota for Spanish Mackerel by 70 per cent from 570 tonnes to 165 tonnes.
Chloe Bauer's family has run the Fisherman Seafood Company for 40 years from Bowen. Spanish Mackerel is a key part of their business and Chloe has said that these changes will "devastate" her industry.
Worse, these changes have been made with the Queensland Government hiding behind complex fish stock modelling the results which have not stacked up to scrutiny. In a review of the modelling for the Queensland Government, Dr Neil Klaer concluded that "I am unable to support the conclusions regarding future harvest levels for the east coast Spanish Mackerel stock until reservations regarding the most appropriate central value for steepness for the base case are resolved."
Fishermen and women are some of the hardest working people in our society. They get up early and spend weeks away from home catching the food we enjoy at Christmas. Yet the Queensland Government pays them no respect by devastating their livelihoods based on contested and complex modelling. How have we let city-based academics make life or death decisions on people's livelihoods using a virtual environment with almost zero understanding of what conditions are in the actual environment.
The tradition of elevating intellectual experts to the font of all wisdom is one we should scrap. If we do not, we will get to the stage where we produce almost nothing for ourselves and rely on imports from others. If that happens we will all be poorer and the tradition of high quality Australian seafood at Christmas will become a luxury that only the rich can afford.