Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (09:51): I have been following with interest the media coverage on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting that is being held currently in Cairns. Five hundred international delegates have been debating how to manage what they perceive as overfishing of bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tuna in the western and central Pacific.
For a long time I have argued against the massive overregulation of the Australian fishing industry, which has killed off many of our local operators. My concern has been absolutely reinforced by the information coming out of this conference.
I would like to quote from one of the conference delegates, Emeritus Professor Dr Robert Kearney, who is from the ANU. He has managed tuna research in the Pacific for almost a decade. He said that Australia has tossed away its chance of equal treatment by surrounding countries, by closing the Coral Sea to tuna fishing. He said:
“We have gifted our share of the world’s biggest fishery to other countries, because it’s impossible to be a major player in that industry from our domestic catch unless that resource is available to us.”
We decided to save the tuna population of the Coral Sea by shutting down our last surviving tuna fisherman in that area, who took 300 tonnes in his last year. Papua New Guinea took 1.7 million tonnes and New Caledonia took 2.1 million tonnes. So Australia made a great contribution! The professor continued:
Last year PNG caught a million tonnes of tuna in their zone, most of it skipjack. Australia’s catch of skipjack tuna in that time was zero-not a single tonne.
He pointed out that yellowfin tuna spawn four times a week and lay a million eggs, while skipjack tuna spawn every night and lay up to 300,000 eggs. His comment was:
You couldn’t possibly eliminate them even if you wanted to.
It beggars belief that the former, Labor government, acting under the insidious influence of that gangrenous organisation called the Pew Charitable Trusts, has destroyed family businesses that have been operating sustainably for generations. At the same time, it is open slather for other countries, which are gaining a windfall from the fish that are swimming out of our waters. Their exports fill the vast majority of our canned tuna imports.
What is even more appalling is that Cairns’s only surviving commercial tuna fish company, Great Barrier Reef Tuna owned by the Lamason family, was not even invited to a single session of this week-long conference. They did not even know that it was taking place. This is typical of fish management: you get the bureaucrats into the room and lock out the fishermen while decisions are made that affect their futures.
We must have a seat at the table, demanding our fair share of the tuna take in the Coral Sea fishery. This would be a good basis for a start to re-establishing just one element of a sustainable fishery in Australia.
To view the official Hansard, click here