Mooloolaba is home port for a large number of vessels including motorised pleasure craft and yachts, Qld State commercial fishers, and a third of Australia’s tuna longline fleet. The Mooloolah River is the main commercial waterway in the region and has a long history of sand choking its mouth due to the orientation of the Eastern sea wall and prevailing weather conditions.
There is a dredge that constantly works to keep the mouth open to allow the safe passage of the Shipping Pilot boats out to sea. However, the main channel of the inner harbour, south of the Pilot station, is also subject to high siltation. This make life very difficult to manage commercial fishing movements in and out of the harbour as often there is minimal water available to get into the inner harbour to offload catch or leave the harbour to go fishing.
Pavo Walker, owner of Walker Seafoods Australia and a Tuna Australia board member, has been asking for the inner harbour to be dredged for several years now. “Not having enough water in the port restricts our vessel movements which impacts on our profitability. It also increases risk of our vessels becoming stranded “said Pavo.
“The shallowing of waterways not only impacts commercial fishing vessels, but also maritime rescue, and other large tourist operations using the seaway. This is a significant safety issue for users of the waterway. Can you imagine if we had an emergency off the coast where we needed to get vessels out in a hurry, and we had to wait for a high tide?”
To address this serious issue, Pavo consulted widely with impacted operators, met with Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the Federal member for Fisher, the Sunshine Coast Mayor and held discussions with the Queensland State member for Maroochydore, Ms. Fiona Simpson. As a direct result of his efforts, MSQ will dredge the inner harbor of the Mooloolah River, a decision welcomed by Mooloolaba fishers.
“While everyone I worked with shared the concerns of industry, there were issues around jurisdiction and cost to consider. Ultimately, it was Fiona’s can-do attitude and ability to make things happen which got us the result we needed. Fiona is a great State member and a big supporter of the fishing industry here in Mooloolaba” said Pavo.
“Maintaining a safe and navigable waterway is very important for all users of our waterways. Furthermore, this is a great outcome for the port of Mooloolaba as it will ensure commercial fishing will continue to provide employment and flow on economic benefits worth millions of dollars to our community. I’m glad that we’ve managed to facilitate an outcome to this issue.” said Qld State Member for Maroochydore, Fiona Simpson.
Dredging of the Mooloolah River inner harbour commenced on 7 February 2020. The applicable Notice to Mariners can be found here