Leading chefs and restaurateurs including Neil Perry, Ben Shewry, George Calombaris and Andrew McConnell have joined forces to criticise the Victorian government’s proposed ban on commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay.

Last week, chef and operator of the Rockpool Group, Neil Perry, said his Victorian restaurants, where 70 to 90 percent of the seafood is sourced from Port Phillip Bay, would suffer as a result of the ban.

“Beautiful fresh sustainable fish – that is fundamentally apart of the culture of Melbourne is going to disappear,” he told the Herald Sun.

The Fisheries Amendment Bill 2015 was introduced in late October as part of the Andrews government’s plan to boost recreational fishing in the Port Phillip Bay area.

The legislation will see commercial net fishing phased out over the next seven years and according to the state government, will also increase catch rates and the size of fish for those who wish to fish recreationally.

Perry said it’s world’s best practice to have sustainable commercial and recreational fishing side-by-side “on the door step of a major city”, adding that the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is opposed to the ban, which he says will hurt the state’s reputation for offering a quality foodservice industry.

“Without a supply of fresh quality fish, Melbourne’s international reputation as the gourmet capital of Australia will suffer.

“It is incredible that the government and the opposition can take this action ignoring the damage they are doing to the city’s reputation and the availability of fresh fish for all Melburnians” he said.

Other chefs joining Perry in his fight against the state government are:

  • Adam d’Sylva – Coda
  • Andrew McConnell – Cumulus, Supernormal, Cutler & Co
  • Ben Shewry – Attica
  • Dan Hunter – Brae
  • Donovan Cooke – The Atlantic
  • Florent Gerardin – previously Pei Modern, Vue de monde
  • Frank Camorra – Movida
  • George Calombaris – Gazi
  • Guy Grossi  – Florentino
  • Ian Curley – The European
  • Jason Lui – Flower Drum
  • Michael Bacash – Bacash

Bacash, who operates his eponymously named restaurant in South Yarra, said menus won't be as diverse if the ban goes ahead, with supply of King George whiting, calamari, garfish and snapper likely to be affected.

“Both the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Department of Agriculture have found that fishing in Port Phillip Bay is sustainable and that commercial fishing and recreational anglers can happily co-exist,” he said.

“Apart from our restaurant customers, each week more than 3 million Victorians eat fresh fish. They will also suffer.”

The legislation has passed the Legislative Assembly and will be debated in the Legislative Council in the next session of parliament beginning on Tuesday 24 November.

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