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Australian Government to Phase-Out Gillnet Fishing in Great Barrier Reef

A gillnet suspended in the ocean with the text "Gillnet Fishing" foregrounded.

Gillnet fishing involves the placement of a large rectangular net being placed horizontally along the ocean floor. The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, noted in her press release on the ban that “destructive gillnet fishing injures and kills threatened dugongs, turtles, dolphins and protected shark species.” Both the federal and Queensland state governments have committed $160 million towards phasing out gillnet fishing by mid-2027. 

In August a rally was held outside of Queensland Parliament house to protest the ban, with Burdekin gillnet fisher, Neil Green, estimating his $750,000 worth of gillnetting equipment will soon become unsellable:

"It's my life-time saving, it's my superannuation — I was hoping to sell that on to my daughter and she could fund my retirement. That's been taken from us…Without gillnetting I'm finished, it's as simple as that."

The Australian Marine Conservation Society reports that there are currently 240 licensed gillnet fishers in Queensland who together utilise nearly 160 kms of gillnet. In 2023, gillnet fishing provided only 2.6% of the entire market of wild-caught seafood on the east coast of Australia. 

A spokesperson for the Palaszczuk government stated that the fishers would be compensated as part of the phase-out process:

"As part of a $160-million package, jointly-funded by the Queensland and Australian governments, $100 million has been allocated to support the commercial fishing industry."

This fund for affected fishers includes grants to account for financial or legal advise for those affected, payments for fishing employees and skippers and grants to be retrained and payments of up to $150,000 outright for certain gillnet fishing licence holders.

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