I’ve done some stories in the past about the Sandgate Fisherman’s Co-op. I loved the idea that this small fishing fleet of mainly prawners would go out to our beautiful bay and come back in of an evening. It meant you could get really fresh seafood as opposed to still good but snap frozen at sea as many of the fleets that go out into deep water, staying out for days, sometimes weeks do. Unfortunately, the co-op went under a couple of years ago.
I was in the area today and went to have a look. The boats used to come right up Cabbage Tree Creek to unload their fish into the Co-op where it would be sold to the public and presumably the profits divided. Now, there’s still a few boats bobbing among the mangroves, but the co-op building’s shuttered up and abandoned- actually condemned I was told.
I drive a loop past it, down the evocatively named ‘Sinbad Street’ reflecting on what might have gone wrong, and just how hard the government is making it to be a fisherman these days. Perhaps we’ll just have to adjust ourselves to the idea of importing all our fish frozen in years to come.
But there’s still life in the fishermen. Under the cabbage trees, beside the creek where a couple of boats bobbed, appeared a sign, and curious, I slammed on the brakes for a closer look and got out. It turned out to be this:
I hope you can read it. It’s basically an explanation by ‘The Fisherman’ of why he a can’t sell you fish. A totally ridiculous law says that if fisherman don’t have the highly sought after and very rare ‘line licence’, and only have one for nets (as for prawn fishermen), they have to throw back all their bycatch- they can’t sell it.
I wandered up the dusty creekside patch a little and found Kev, sitting under a little marquee, esky at his feet; initially, I think a little suspicious. (And why wouldn’t you be, fishermen have got such a raw deal and there I was with my dumb questions.) But he soon opened up.
Unlike many, Kev (who is not ‘The Fisherman’ ) has one of the coveted line licences, so he can sell fish to the public as well as his prawns. But he told me those who don’t have to throw their bycatch back into the water. “By the time you get around to sorting it, it’s dead but you have to chuck it anyway,” he said.
The dead fish attract sharks and dolphins and fishermen can actually be prosecuted if being seen to feed the wild life, Kev said.
So what to do with it? They can’t take it home to feed their families; that too is illegal. So over the side it goes.
Fishermen rely on the sea for their living, they are not going to take more than what’s sustainable and some pasty pen pusher in a government office who’s signed off on this needs to realise that. So, anyway, this is a very longwinded way of saying, that if you want to support our local Moreton Bay Fishermen AND have some beautiful fresh seafood from right here on our doorstep, go to Sinbad Street and buy it direct.
And, if you have a mind to, like the mysterious ‘The Fisherman’ says, please write to your local member to tell them how narrow-minded their laws are that require fishermen to throw dead fish into the sea.