Fishermen: Seafood Christmas tradition under threat

Local fishermen say you had better enjoy the high quality fresh fish, prawns, crabs and lobsters that help make this time of year even more special this year, because it may not be round for much longer.

The grim Christmas message was issued by Tricia Beatty, executive officer for the Professional Fishermen’s Association yesterday (Wednesday).

“For some of our fisheries, it may be that there just won’t be the number of fishermen around anymore to bring a steady, reliable flow of local seafood for our NSW community,” Ms Beatty said. 

Ms Beatty says the dire warning is necessary as the fishing industry goes through an intensive reform program aimed at restructure.

“This is not about sustainability of our fishing, but about the structure of our industry,” said Ms Beatty.

“Government over-allocated the number of fishing shares and now is restructuring to take up these inactive shares.

“To achieve this, the Government will force our active fishermen to buy up the many inactive shares. This is a far cry from when Government first introduced share management to our industry as a strong property right,” she said. 

The Professional Fishermen’s Association says local fishermen, including some from the Far South Coast fishing fleet, are working with the Government to find ways to restructure the industry and ensure economic viability.

However, Ms Beatty says they are increasingly concerned that there may be no future for them.

“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 Government has put $13.5 million on the table, together with $2 million of the industry’s money, to assist those wishing to exit the industry to sell their shares to other fishers.

“However, even Government will acknowledge that $15.5 million is not enough to fix the situation or give any compensation to the industry for their investment.”

“It is devastating to see the fifth and sixth generation fishers no longer teaching their children to fish as they see no future in our industry anymore.

“It is a very uncertain and stressful time for our fishers with many facing significant mental health issues and working in unsafe conditions to increase their capital,” she said.

Ms Beatty said “We call on the Minister and the Government to review the actual impact of these models on some of our fisheries and the likelihood of achieving fair economic viability without destroying livelihoods. Surely alternative fishery management tools can be employed where it can be demonstrated that the harm of the proposed model outweighs the benefits achieved.”

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