Grievance Debate: Rock Lobster Fishing Industry

Thursday October 17, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:25): I rise to talk about the start of the rock lobster season in the South-East. Of note, there are a couple of issues around the Port MacDonnell harbour and breakwater. The start of the rock lobster fishing season is 1 October. It is a time when there is a flurry of activity in our regional port of the southern zone rock lobster season when fishermen are putting all of their pots out with over 60 boats.

An issue that has continually raised its head in the area is the insurgence of seaweed and sand into the harbour and, unfortunately, this year has been no different. So that people are aware, these fishing boats cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They have inboard motors which, in essence, means that they suck water into the cooling system to cool the motors down. In terms of the breakwater area, there are plenty of cases where there is so much seaweed in the breakwater that that gets sucked into the inlet areas and clogs up the filters very quickly. The consequence of that is putting these very expensive boats and their motors at risk.

I will give credit to minister Knoll in that he has attempted to try to clear—or his department has tried to clear—some of the seaweed from that area, but the locals keep telling me that it is a bit of a running joke down there at the moment. It involves a boat with quite literally a small cage towed behind it. As they lift it up, most of the seaweed leaves the cage and sits in the water. So there is a fair bit of frustration around the environment that is down there.

Might I say from the outset that the fishermen want to work in partnership with the state government to find solutions to this. Roger Cutting, the President of the Professional Fishermen's Association, has written to the minister and I would like to read that letter:

Dear Mr Knoll,

Yet again we are forced to write to you re the Port MacDonnell harbour. The situation is one now of extreme urgency as the position for fishermen getting in and out of the harbour is now extremely tenuous. Many of the fishermen are only about to access their mooring on high tide and from a certain direction. Some boats are having difficulties getting in and out for fuelling up.

DPTI are continuing to spend money on dredging which has no lasting benefit. No sooner has the dredge left and we are back in the same situation again. DPTI are also only dredging where the boats fuel up and boats launch which is only the tip of the iceberg. Last year DPTI dredged around the fuelling station and within two weeks of it being done a boat became stuck and had to wait for high tide to try to dislodge itself.

The government need to be mindful that this harbour is home to some 60 odd fishing boats and a multi-million dollar industry which is now being put in jeopardy. The form of dredging currently being employed does little more than stir up the mark and clog up the strainers on the boats. As stated currently the only dredging that has been done at Port MacDonnell Harbour has been in and around the fuelling station and the boat ramp.

The issue in the harbour is far greater than that. The whole of the harbour is filling with both sand and weed The entrance to the harbour, at the end of the breakwater is completely filled with sand. In the long-term something needs to be changed in the structure of the breakwater to ensure that this problem does not continue.

The professional fishermen have met with DPTI however they hold very different views. DPTI is happy with the current dredging around the boat ramp and fuelling station, the professional fishermen are concerned about the life of the harbour and their livelihoods and believe a solution rather than a bandaid needs to be found.

This is not going to be easily solved but needs to be addressed now as the consequences to the fishing industry and the state as a whole could be catastrophic. We implore you to come down to view the situation for yourself and meet with a group of professional fishermen. We wait in anticipation of your response. Yours sincerely Roger Cutting, President of the Professional Fishermen's Association.

The other fact that Roger wanted me to point out is that over the last 13 years Port MacDonnell locals have had to pay close to $1 million in fees to the state government for mooring. That constitutes between $60,000 and $90,000 a year in mooring fees for roughly 65 boats.