MAJOR changes are in store for the professional fishing industry on the Clarence.

Faced with skyrocketing fuel prices and increasing competition from imported seafood and aquaculture, the board of the Clarence River Fishermen's Cooperative this week reached a number of decisions it hopes will position the industry to meet the challenges of the future.

Under the proposed changes, processing of seafood at the Maclean factory will stop and, for a short time, will be done at the Iluka facility.

The existing Maclean site will be used to receive fish and as an administrative facility.

A new processing facility, capable of processing all catch, is to be built at the southern entrance to Maclean (opposite Ferry Park) and a new ice-making machine, capable of producing 10 tonnes a day, will be installed in Maclean.

These are to be at least part-funded through the sale, last year, of the co-op's former Yamba site. It now leases that site.

General manager Brian Mitchell will not be replaced when his contract expires at the end of this year, and there are to be other staff reductions.

From then, there will be no general manager. The responsibilities of the general manager will be handled by the current marketing manager, Russell Creighton. Mr Mitchell may be used as a consultant 'from time to time'.

A number of jobs may also go.

Board chairman, Barry Cason, said the industry was operating during very difficult times and was facing increasing constraints from NSW Fisheries.

"We have had a drop in volume of 10 per cent each year for the past three years," he said.

"You can only do that for a short period of time before you need to restructure your organisation and cut your costs."

Mr Cason said most processing at the Maclean site had already stopped.

"This industry comes in fits and starts," he said.

"We have just finished the mullet season and near 100 per cent of that was processed in Iluka, so we know we can handle it."

He said general manager, Brian Mitchell, was 'moving on, not being moved on'.

"We are pleased with what he has given the business," he said. "We see a positive future for the co-op."

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