Fishers reject industry restructure attempt

CLARENCE River fishers have rejected the latest State Government attempt to restructure their industry.

After mulling over Department of Primary Industry restructure information packages sent out a few weeks ago, a meeting including 50 fishers voted unanimously to reject the proposals.

The vote occurred at an information/update meeting on the NSW Commercial Fisheries Business Adjustment Program (BAP) for Clarence River and Region 2 Commercial Fishermen on Tuesday at the Harwood Hall.

The fishermen, Clarence River Fishermen's Cooperative directors and management, the Professional Fishermen's Association and the Wild Caught Fishers Association met to put the contents of the DPI information packages under the microscope.

CRFC marketing and fishing manager Garry Anderson said despite some early optimism about the proposals, the original sticking points remained.

"After a couple of hours of to and fro there was a resolution put forward that 'Region 2 Commercial Fishermen will not participate any further in the BAP without more and clearer information from DPI'," Mr Anderson said.

"The vote on this was unanimous."

He said fishers still cannot work out what the restructure will cost them and why it requires them to buy their jobs back.

"DPI are saying it's not buying your job back, it is an investment in your industry," Mr Anderson said. "But no-one can tell us how much.

"Fishers have been told to borrow up to $80,000 from the Rural Assistance Authority and start buying or selling shares over the next few months to be able to do what they currently do in their day-to-day fishing business.

"Some fishers are up for 800 to 900 shares while others need only 100.

"Can anyone outside the fishing industry comprehend what it would be like to be asked to buy your job back, but not have a clue what it will cost you until it is all done and dusted? This purchase does not even guarantee additional income, it only allows them to work at their current catch capacity."

Mr Anderson said the DPI could not guarantee there would be enough shares to buy.

"No-one can tell us the cost to buy now let alone what the benchmarks and charges will be when they move the goal posts in 2019, so no fisher can make an informed decision," he said.

He said confirmation that in 2019 the DPI would establish a new committee for total allowable catch further damaged confidence fishers had in their future.

"Region 2 (Clarence River area) rejects any further involvement in the adjustment until all the information is released so fishers can make a constructive and informed decision on their future," he said.

"Waiting for the trading to begin not knowing what the future costs to operate will be is not how anyone makes a long-term rational business investment or decision.

"They can word it or package it however they want, but fishers are going to become unviable with additional expenses to their bottom line they do not have today and will be significantly disadvantaged."

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