Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram The Andrews Labor government has moved ahead with its plans to ban commercial net fishing in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay by April 2022, after its proposed Fisheries Amendment Bill 2015 passed the lower house last week. Under the proposal, the government will cough up $27 million in compensation to commercial licence holders, but the controversial bill has stirred Victoria’s seafood industry, which has found support from the likes of chef George Calombaris, with claims it will increase prices and kill jobs in the state. The Melbourne Seafood Centre released a statement slamming the government’s initiative, suggesting popular fish like King George whiting, rock flathead, garfish and calamari will not be available fresh from the bay. According to Johnathon Davey from Seafood Industry Victoria, 43 commercial fishing businesses will be affected, resulting in 600 tonnes of seafood unavailable to Victorians – with produce from Port Phillip Bay equating to 10 to 16 per cent of Victoria’s supply. Kon Magdanis from Camberwell Market Seafoods agreed with the sentiment, telling Neos Kosmos it will be everyday Victorians who will pay the price. “It’ll dramatically increase the price of fish across the board, people who are struggling, they’ll probably drop off and not buy fish,” he said. “There’s talk that we might have to tackle imported fish, it’s just going to increase prices of fish across the board and the majority of Victorians will miss out on fresh fish out of the bay.” Magdanis – who has been involved in the industry for 35 years – stressed the quality of consumable fish will decrease as well. “If we can’t source bay fish from Port Philip Bay then we’ll have to access it from outer areas of Victoria, it might be corner inlets that will take 24 hours to get it to the market floor, whereas out of the bay we can get it onto the market floor within four hours, so there’s a difference in quality.” He was supported by fellow business owner Nick Roussis, who runs Mermaid Seafood at three separate locations, who said his business will suffer as a result of the measures. “The Port Philip Bay fish makes up 30 per cent of my total sales every year. I’m looking at losing roughly about a million dollars a year in sales and possibly putting off three or four staff,” he told Neos Kosmos. “Even though they know what they’re doing is wrong – to deny five million Victorians fresh seafood, and they know about 250 jobs will go as a result of this.” But the government claims the move will not increase pricing or harm access to seafood. “What should be understood about this is that this is a ban on commercial netting in Port Phillip Bay. It is not a ban on commercial fishing in this area. There will be significant fishing activity. There will still be fish available, whether it is at Queen Victoria Market or at local restaurants,” Agricultural Minister Jacinta Allan was quoted in the Herald Sun as saying. Debate about the proposed legislation resumed in the upper house on Thursday.