Prawners call end to a tough year

SOME Clarence River fishermen have had such a poor season they are finding it difficult to put food on the table, according to an industry spokesman.

Professional Fishermen’s Association executive officer John Harrison said river prawn trawl operators had their worst season on record.

“We’ve got fishermen who have been in the industry for 50 years and they have never seen it this bad,” he said.

This year fishermen agreed to stop trawling at different times because prawns were too small, and have now closed the season early.

They commissioned extensive testing of the river bed and water in 18 sites from Brushgrove to close to the river mouth as well as in the tributaries.

They found nothing to explain why the prawns were so small.

“But that did allay some concerns about contaminants in the river,” Mr Harrison said.

“The prawns have refused to grow this year, and the recent counts indicate that is still the situation.

“It is with some regret, however, for the sustainability of the stocks and to hopefully put us in good stead for the next season the fishers have made the decision to close. It is a decision that should be applauded on the grounds of sustainability, particularly given how difficult the season has been, but it is a decision in the best interest of the fishery.

“Prawns are not only an important part of the culture of the people of the Clarence but they are appreciated throughout NSW as a signature product of this region.”

Mr Harrison said some fishermen would be able to get work when cane harvesting started, but that wouldn’t be until the end of June.

“Others are going to be struggling,” he said.

“Some will do other types of fishing, but that makes something of a triple whammy. Guys who would normally trawl will be catching some of what other fishos catch, and then we get an oversupply and the price goes down.

“We hope this is a one-off and that next season things will be better.”

The next trawl season starts in Lake Wooloweyah in October and in the river in December.

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