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“Tuna Rush” Leads To Chaos In Port Australia, April 9, 13

 

A plethora of tuna boats converging on the weekend casued gridlock
A tuna fishing frenzy sparked “boat rage”, forcing police to intervene on the weekend.

Portland fishing guru Bob McPherson said about 350 vessels crammed the city’s lone boat ramp on Saturday morning, leaving their crews with a two-hour wait to launch or exit the water.

Portland is the center of attention for Australia’s annual tuna season. Mr McPherson said 350 boats put in on Saturday, based on a count by the city’s Coast Guard.

“There was some traffic drama — it’s just a bloody circus,” he said.

“Police officers had to come down and sort it out but there’s just no organization. You only need a couple of arrogant people from Melbourne trying to push in and you’ve got boat rage.”

Mr. McPherson praised the efforts of police in trying to untangle a late-afternoon traffic snarl which developed near the boat ramp.

“There were a couple of people trying to push in like they were driving down Bourke Street. The cops came down and did a good job in sorting it out. They were there for about three hours,” he said.

He called on Glenelg Shire Council to get more involved in organizing the annual event.

“Another boat ramp and parking was supposed to be in and going,” he said.

“The $2.7 million funding was allocated two years ago. The tuna season is growing by 15 or 20 percent a year but the organization of the event is simply not keeping pace.

“The council has put in a couple of pontoons, which has helped, but the money should have been spent on the ramp.”

Mr. McPherson said the tuna season had grown enormously in the past couple of years, pumping millions of dollars into the Portland and district economy between Easter and June.

“All tourists and tourism is good but this is unmanaged tourism. The tuna season is great for all the south-west, but it’s unmanaged,” he said.

Mr. McPherson estimated that thousands of tuna were caught off Portland on the weekend.

Glenelg Shire chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey said Portland’s new marina would be opening soon to provide additional parking but matters of driver behavior would always be the responsibility of police.

She said plans in relation to a second boat ramp were still in the process of being finalized.

“Facilities will be designed for maximum use but from time to time there will be peak periods when the weather is perfect and the tuna are biting,” Ms Kelsey said.

“When all those factors all come together we are going to have to deal with situations when demand is above and beyond what we can reasonably provide for.”

Acting Sergeant Sean Elliott, of Portland police, said there needed to be a plan to cater for traffic management in periods of peak use.

He said police officers spent 2½ hours regulating traffic before being relieved by council officers on Saturday.

“It was the most boats I’ve ever seen. Normally it’s not too bad in the afternoon but on Saturday 300 boats decided to come back in at 5pm. It was gridlocked. It’s quicker to launch than retrieve boats and with a few hundred boats at five minutes a boat — you do the maths. No boat ramp in Australia is designed to cater for that, but there does need to be a traffic management plan,” he said.

Acting Sergeant Elliott said some motorists were trying to jump the queue, which caused tempers to fray.