A PROMINENT fisherman has predicted a catastrophic hit to the local economy if the Commonwealth Government moves to restrict or even ban recreational fishing for southern bluefin tuna. Dale McClelland, who founded the activist group WE FISH three years ago in the wake of restrictions on mako fishing, said Portland would be the hardest-hit community if Canberra imposed tougher catch numbers for recreational anglers, banned it, or insisted that recreational tuna catches should be included in the allowable commercial catch figure. “We understand that the economic boost to Portland over the four-day Easter period this year was $2.2 million,” he said. “Overall in Victoria every year, the figure is $2.3 billion. This is a line in the sand and we need to stand up for our rights as fishermen.” About 20 to 30 tuna fishing enthusiasts from Portland are expected to join colleagues from as far as Melbourne to rally next week, insisting that the federal government keep its hands off recreational tuna fishing. Mr McClelland strongly urged Glenelg Shire to send a representative to the rally, because of the sector’s major contribution to Portland’s economic health. The rally is set for 7.30pm on Friday, July 27 at South Rovers Football Netball Club in Warrnambool. Mr McClelland, who is rally coordinator, said the Commonwealth’s failure to respond to urgent queries about their tuna policy was an ominous sign. Read more in Wednesday’s edition of the Portland Observer.