Mackay commercial net fishers recognised as guardians of the Reef

Published: 30/10/2014

Mackay commercial net fishers are showing their support for the Great Barrier Reef by joining the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Guardians program.

Mackay locals Mark and Debbie Ahern are among the first net fishers to join the program, which sees GBRMPA and commercial net fishers work together to identify best fishing practices to protect the inshore environment.

GBRMPA Chairman Russell Reichelt said best environmental practices were essential for the long-term sustainability of fisheries resources and crucial for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

“We’re delighted these commercial net fishers are operating in an environmentally sustainable way and hope it encouraged others in the industry to adopt similar core operational fishing practices,” he said.

“A healthy Great Barrier Reef ecosystem is important for the Reef’s health and also provides for a viable commercial fishing industry.

“All actions — big or small — are vital to building the resilience of the Reef and help reduce pressures on the inshore environment.”

Mark and Debbie Ahern, owners of ‘Debbie’s Seafood’, understand good environmental practices benefit the Reef, their business and their family.

“We fish responsibly and professionally and we want it to be viable into the future. If you run your business professionally you will also look after the environment and your resources into the future,” Mr Ahern said.

Among Mark and Debbie’s innovative environmental practises, they have developed a ‘reef friendly’ arrangement with local farmers whereby, under an approved process, they recycle fish offal with local farmers for use as organic fertiliser.

The fishers have also improved their business practises to ensure they target the product they are chasing by using the right net size, paying close attention to where they set, and regularly reviewing wind and tide conditions.

“We love and care about the environment we work in. We recognise it provides for us and we want to keep fishing into the future. We want it to be available for our grandchildren, so we need to look after it.”

The commercial net fishers join fellow reef line fishers, marine aquarium fishers and coral collectors that are part of the Reef Guardians program.

This includes Mackay local John Daymond — the first collector outside of Cairns to be recognised through the Reef Guardian Marine Aquarium Fish and Coral Collector Program.

Reef Guardian Fishers is part of a broader Reef Guardian Program involving over 15 councils, over 300 schools, and 25 farmers and graziers taking part in on-ground environmental projects that benefit the Reef.

Participating fishers publicly show their commitment to the Reef by displaying a Reef Guardian sign on their boats.