Calls for lower bag limits for mudcrabs have started in a bid to tackle black market sales.
Calls for lower bag limits for mudcrabs have started in a bid to tackle black market sales.

Gladstone tops CQ for black market seafood

CALLS for lower bag limits for lucrative seafood, including mud crabs and maximum size limits for fish are growing stronger in a bid to tackle illegal sales.

In the 2017 - 18 financial year to date, 14 complaints of alleged black marketing of seafood in Gladstone have been received, the highest in Central Queensland.

A new State Government discussion paper has recommended an increase to fines for those caught selling fish on the black market, but some in the fishing industry say more needs to be done to prevent the growing issue.

Bundaberg has had 11 complaints, Hervey Bay had six and Yeppoon had eight.

Recreational fisherman and conservationist Karl French said some fishermen were pushing the limits of legality.

He said he has heard stories of people selling mudcrab claws in bags at the pub in Gladstone.

In Queensland, licensed commercial fishers are the only people who can legally sell the produce they catch.

"I was talking with a skipper about this recently and he says most people don't refer to it as a bag limit, they say it's a target," Mr French said.

Central Queensland commercial crabber David Swindells said lower bag limits would do more to prevent illegal seafood sales than higher fines.

"There's a huge black market going on out there," Mr Swindells, who is also a Queensland Seafood Industry Association board member, said.

"I don't think tougher penalties would stop them, it's in their blood to do it and the reward from selling mud crabs is great because they get a lot of money."

He said the growth of the seafood industry's black market meant some weeks he would struggle to make a profit.

A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said selling fish on the black market had the potential to undermine the viability of commercial fishing.

"The community has been calling for change in this area of fisheries legislation for many years and stronger fisheries laws against black marketing will bring Queensland in line with other Australian fisheries management agencies," he said.

The proposed reforms include increasing fines to $378,450 and prison time, providing magistrates alternatives to fines to deter repeat offenders and giving fisheries inspectors more power to investigate commercial businesses handling seafood products.

The discussion paper is open for public feedback until May 20.