• Daniel McCarthy.
    Daniel McCarthy.

AS the marine and commercial fishing industries continue to be ruthlessly dismantled by politicians and international environmental groups, for little else but political gain, can we afford the luxury of remaining apolitical?

If being apolitical was such a powerful tool in negotiating with governments then why do environmental lobby groups support political parties like the Greens? Would the union movement be so involved in the political scene if they could achieve what they wanted for their members by being apolitical?

The fact of the matter is, if you are going to negotiate with anyone, the first requirement is that you must have something of value to them to negotiate with. For most transactions money works fine – but with politicians the commodity of value is your vote. The more votes you have the more negotiating authority you have – and that is the main reason that you need to support a political party that will represent your issues. Their job is to assemble the vote so that you have a voice in the halls of power.
As president of the Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association (CPGFA) for the past six years, running a small business operating a Game Fishing charter boat in Cairns and having been involved in the fishing and marine industries virtually all my working life, I feel that I am in a position to make a fair appraisal. My family and I are keen recreational anglers and love the Queensland outdoor lifestyle.

For several years now the charter boat and recreational fishing industry, along with virtually every other marine reliant business, particularly the commercial fishing industries, have suffered a long a persistent campaign of attack. The attacks are more often than not run by foreign based Radical Environmental movements.

As I’m sure you are well aware, the mass exclusions zones now declared by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, was initiated by the PEW foundation from the USA. Pew, along with other NGOs, have spent millions of dollars to get what they want. This seems to be, total evacuation of fisher people from planet earth.

Our marine industries have had to suffer this slow death at the hands of government becoming ever dependant on the “Green” lobby; specifically preferences at the polls, for their very survival.

Minister Burke denies these claims but you don’t have to look far to see the ties between Burke and  organisations like PEW.

Below is a link to some extracts from the webpage http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/australia/explore/fish-river-station.xml

These attacks will continue and there are several planned for the the coming election aimed specifically at pressuring the next government to close more areas and push out more fisherman.

Our great country, surrounded by terrific oceans full of thriving fish stocks of many different species, continues to import in excess of 70 per cent of the seafood our nation consumes.

Sadly this situation, which has been forced on our consumers by successive governments, virtually supports the destruction at most and over exploitation at least, of several fish stocks around the world. If this is not quasi conservation then what is?

Our governments, both State and Federal, over many years, have made so many commercial fisheries unviable. This has not been due to fish stock depletion but rather through over regulation and mass exclusion zones under the “smoke and mirrors” of marine protected areas.

It certainly seems that there has been an obvious philosophy along the lines of ‘we won’t put you out of business’, but they have made business in many areas so difficult the best option becomes getting out of business. By this method of effort reduction the government  then avoids compensation.

Unfortunately, virtually all marine user groups are being forced to engage a new tactic which is largely foreign to them; the political avenue.

Generally speaking most fisherman and fisherwomen like to do their own thing.
Whether commercially fishing to provide quality fresh seafood to the consumer or recreationally fishing for sport and leisure, we like to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the most amazing environment of our water ways and oceans. The most distant thing from our minds is politics.

The problem lies in the fact that the over the top green movement takes the opposite view. They are very well organised, very well funded and are very persistent. I understand WWF alone has 5000 full time employees. These groups individually and collectively have the next several years mapped out with plans to shut vast areas, halt big projects and shut down some farming industries if their desires are not met by the next government. Can anyone else see the problem?

The only place these issues are likely to be addressed and receive some commonsense assessments is in the Senate. The big problem is that the Senate is currently controlled by the Greens.

As I mentioned earlier, as a charter boat industry, we found ourselves searching for options to stem the blood loss for our business. The solution I have adopted is to “fight fire with fire”.

For a number of years the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party (AFLP) has represented many marine industries including ours. The AFLP was instrumental in negotiating with government to get the mandatory criminal convictions over turned for the GBRMP infringements. This issue affected a huge number of people’s freedoms both personally and in business. At the 2010 Federal poll, the AFLP was last man standing for the last senate seat in Qld with .85 of a quota. This was achieved with minimal industry support (fisherman don’t like politics) and on a very tight budget.

This year I believe the AFLP is in its best position ever to achieve a seat in the Senate. This undoubtedly will raise the profile of fishing issues in Federal parliament.
In response to some of the issues mentioned above, countless groups have emerged to represent fishing and marine issues around the country. And they do a great job of making people aware of what is really going on. However what is the point of having tens of thousands of people "all fired up with nowhere to go"? Unless we provide somewhere for people to “park their protest”, in the form of a vote, we achieve nothing.
The current Labor government has demonstrated consistent disregard for fishing issues and industry.  Chances are the next government, whom ever forms it, will be strapped for cash.

Furthermore, if the Greens continue to control the Senate, we can only expect more of the same. The problem I fear is if the coalition controls both houses of parliament our issues could be swept aside on the basis of inheriting huge debt. We need to think very seriously before we vote, consider the AFLP this year as your fishing future may very well depend on it.

Daniel McCarthy is a Cairns charter boat operator and president of Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association (CPGFA). McCarthy has recently been endorsed as the Queensland candidate for the Australian Fishing & Lifestyle party (AFLP).

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