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Millions Of Dollars At Risk As Sandbar Corners Tuna Fleet Australia, February 5, 13


Trawler Night Raider became stuck at the mouth of the Mooloolah River
Tuna vessel operators have warned the Sunshine Coast could lose a multi-million-dollar industry if a solution cannot be found to the sandbar at the mouth of Mooloolah River.

Last week’s wild weather has pushed tons of sand back into the river mouth, making it too dangerous for many skippers to cross at low tide.

That is despite hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on dredging.

The Mooloolaba tuna fishing industry is worth AUS$20-$30 million (USD 20.8-31.2 million) and the prawn trawling industry is worth between $10 and $15 million a year to the Coast.

Gary Love, the owner of the trawler Jabiru, said operators would be forced to look at relocating or risk going broke.

“If the authorities can’t do anything, operators could be forced to go up to Tin Can Bay or down to Brisbane - they've really got to figure out what’s causing this sand build-up,” Mr. Love said.

“If you hit the bottom the damage cost is just too high.”

Mr. Love said he had fished out of Mooloolaba for 20 years and the bar had grown progressively worse over the last six or seven.

“When I came up here in 1985 you could come in and out of that bar in a cyclone. It was the best crossing on the east coast.”

De Brett Seafoods managing director Gary Heilmann said his fleet was not hitting the panic button but a long-term solution was needed.

“It's not brilliant. The dredging used to last for a couple of years but it seems it only lasts a couple of months now,” he said.

Top Catch Charters skipper Trent Sammon said he had been forced to cancel several trips because of the danger.

“It’s an extremely difficult passage,” he said.

“You’ve got to weigh it up. Sure we could make $1100 for the day, but there’s a good chance we’d quite easily flip and lose a $200,000 boat and the business. For us charter guys who come in and out on the same day it’s pretty much impossible to cross at low tide, it’s way too shallow.”

Marine expert Tony Isaacson said he believed the significant movement of sand around Point Cartwright and the rivermouth proved the expensive sand pumping operation had failed.

“It’s not a matter of anyone being at fault. We tried something and it hasn’t worked so we need to work out a new way to try and combat the issue,” he said.

“We’ve got a real problem, no question about it.”

The Department of Transport and Main Roads, which is responsible for the rivermouth dredging, did not respond to questions about the scheme’s apparent failure.