Don't sink us

An Eden-based commercial fisherman has warned that the future of the industry is in jeopardy following the NSW Government’s move to cull fishing licences.

The Government has allocated funds to buy out inactive licenses and cap catches at historic levels, yet it is proposed that these businesses would still be allocated a proportion of the total catch, even if they have not fished.

Currently, 370 in-shore line fishery licences are held across NSW, but just 40 of these licence holders catch a combined 90% of the state’s fish.

Those wishing to stay in the industry and maintain their current levels will be forced to purchase the allocations given to inactive licence holders.

Drew Mudaliar believes the move is “economically crazy”, and would prove to be an impossible task.

The commercial kingfisherman said he averages around 20 tonne per year, but if the state’s total catch was allocated equally among licence holders, he would only get around 700kg – the equivalent of a good week’s work.

In order to receive all 20 tonnes, he would need to buy out around 28 licences, something he simply can’t afford to do.

“I would say that in the Port of Eden, there would be around 20 line fishermen affected,” Mudaliar said.

“Eden has some of the biggest catches in the state, and they’ll be the ones that will be hit the hardest, because they’d have to buy up a lot of the smaller guys to keep fishing.

“It will affect everyone from Greg Warren with the biggest boat, down to Barry Beattie with a small five-metre runabout.

“Based on market value, it would be an impossible task.”

Mudaliar said the forced restructure would also have a flow-on effect, with potential job losses in services right across the coast if supply levels drop.

“At present, the industry is already suffering from increased operating costs and a fragile infrastructure supply chain,” he said.

“Any reduction in seafood supply could break the NSW industry; we have already lost our local co-operative and the jobs that go with it.

“Freight lines, ice works, slipways and all manner of services in coastal towns would also be affected.”

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, said he has been in contact with local fisherman, and was working to address their concerns.

“I’m concerned that we need more recognition of the regional issues affecting our communities,” Mr Constance said.

“I’m concerned about the level of communication (with the industry), and I think it is vital that we have stronger engagement and more clarity, and I will continue to impress this upon the Minister.

“They are vital industries for our region and we want to see good outcomes for fishermen.”

The NSW Department of Primary Industries says it will release details of the reform proposals to the industry in the coming months.

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