Fishers will hook into officials
CLARENCE Valley fishers are tipped to give government officials a hard time when they meet with them today in Maclean to discuss proposed changes in the industry.
Fishers from Sydney to Port Macquarie have already rejected changes to their industry flagged in options papers the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries sent out last month.
Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative fishing and marketing manager Garry Anderson said he attended a meeting of 52 fishermen with the DPI in Newcastle and the reforms were rejected 50-2.
"It's been the same at meetings right along the coast from Sydney, Newcastle and Port Macquarie," Mr Anderson said.
"The meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will be the same. This is shaping up as the most serious threat to the fishing industry in the region in my lifetime, maybe ever."
Mr Anderson said an open meeting this afternoon will be followed by one-on-one meetings between DPI officers and individual fishers.
"They will talk to them directly about how the changes would affect their businesses," he said.
Mr Anderson said the proposed reforms broke a promise the government made when it flagged changes several years ago.
"They promised any changes made would not impose a financial burden on the industry but from what I can see there is going to be a big financial burden," Mr Anderson said.
He said the reforms propose fishers buy out shares of those leaving the industry, virtually forcing them to "buy back their jobs".
It was this aspect of the reforms that annoyed Clarence estuary fisher Steve Everson.
He said it revealed a lack of understanding of the nature of estuary fishing in the Clarence and will force fishers to abandon lifestyles and practices built up over decades.
"They seem to think fishermen will leave the industry and the ones remaining will be able to catch more," he said.
"It's just not how it happens. Our work is determined by the weather and nature as well as economics.
"There's eight or nine species you can chase in the Clarence depending on the season or the weather or floods or the economy.
"You can't catch more than is humanly possible to catch."
Mr Everson said on his calculations it would cost him $45,000 to buy the shares needed for him to stay in the industry, fishing at his current levels.
"There's no doubt there's need for reform in the industry but this is the wrong way to go about it," he said.
The CRFC has enlisted political help from the past and present to help in the fight against the proposed changes.
On Monday co-op general manager Danielle Adams met with former NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Causley as well as Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis.
"It was a fact-finding mission to see how we might work better with DPI on this issue," Ms Adams said.