The number of commercial fishers supplying the Christmas table may not be around in coming years due to a State Government overhaul of the industry.
The number of commercial fishers supplying the Christmas table may not be around in coming years due to a State Government overhaul of the industry. Lisa Williams

Enjoy seafood while it lasts, fishing industry warns

SEAFOOD for many is an expectation at Christmas, yet according to the Coffs Coast's professional fishermen 'locally caught, wild harvest' may soon become a luxury for just a few.

The Professional Fisherman's Association - the member body of New South Wales' commercial fishing fleet - has warned the number of commercial fishers supplying the Christmas table may not be around in coming years due to a State Government overhaul of the industry.

"For some of our fisheries, there just won't be the number of fishermen around anymore to bring a steady, reliable flow of local seafood for our NSW community," PFA executive officer Tricia Beatty said

"Our fishing industry is currently going through an intensive reform program aimed at restructuring our industry.

"Let me emphasise from the outset that this is not about sustainability of our fishing, but about the structure of our industry."

The NSW Government's Reform Program proposes that active fishers 'buy-out' the licences of non-active fishers and the government has put $13.5-million on the table to add to $2-million put forward by the commercial fishing industry.

Even still there are concerns $15.5-million won't be enough to fix the situation or offer adequate compensation.

Ms Beatty said the government had over allocated the number of fishing shares in the industry and was now restructuring it to take up inactive licences.

"This is a far cry from when Government first introduced share management to our industry as a strong property right," she said.

"Our fishermen are trying to work with the Government to find ways to restructure the industry and ensure our economic viability.

"But, our industry is facing an insecure time with increasing concern that there will be no future for many.

She said the restructuring may work well in some fisheries, but would decimate others.

"The draft restructure options provided by the Government to the industry leaves us in serious doubt about whether there will be any industry left," Ms Beatty said.

The average age of a commercial fisher in NSW is 59 and the industry body believes few lenders will approve bank loans for fishers to further invest in the industry, forcing many to leave.



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