A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to reduce restrictions on commercial fishing in several South Coast lakes and estuaries and to lift a ban on ocean haul netting for some popular recreational fish species has been labelled insane and a threat to fish stocks and the coast's economy, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries on Friday released a mass of documentation supporting its reform program for NSW commercial fishing.
It includes options to allow mesh netting in parts of Merimbula Lake and a reduction in restrictions on commercial fishing in other popular South Coast waterways, such as Coila Lake and the Moruya and Shoalhaven Rivers.
The ban on haul netting would be lifted in a section of Wallaga Lake at Bermagui and the use of 400-metre mesh nets would be permitted on weekdays in parts of Wapengo Lake, if the proposals are adopted.
One of the reform options proposes removing restrictions that apply to haul netting Australian salmon and tailor, and the inclusion of kingfish as a “conditional target species” for commercial netting.
The NSW Government has developed a $16 million structural adjustment package to provide for fishers to exit the industry and to help others set up their businesses for the future.
In a document explaining the need for reform, the DPI claims fish stocks that had been subject to commercial harvesting for more than 50 years were generally in good shape, but the economic viability of the commercial fishing industry wasn't.
It said the industry had been squeezed by many factors, including the loss of some significant fishing grounds through the introduction of recreational fishing havens and marine parks, and a build-up over many decades of regulations that restrict the way [commercial] fishers operate.
The president of the Canberra Fisherman's Club, Glen Malam, said the proposal to lift bans on netting was a step in the wrong direction.
“Nets can be very destructive to the age profile of the fish we get down the coast,” he said.
“The gauge of the nets is such that under-size fish are allowed to swim free. What that means is that just about everything in those creeks and rivers above the legal [take] size will be wiped out.
“It pretty much closes it down for amateur fishing totally. Places like Batemans Bay, Narooma, Tuross they rely heavily on the little bloke in his tinny going out for a fish. It makes very poor economic sense to be doing this.”
Mr Malam wasn't necessarily against commercial fishing, but was concerned about the wisdom of some of the decisions being made.
“We've got more and more Commonwealth marine parks appearing out to sea. Obviously professional fishermen have had that closed off to them, so they come in closer - which I think is absolute madness.
“It's a backward step because it's putting more pressure on areas that are already under pressure.”
He described the proposal to allow beach haulers to net kingfish as insane. Kingfish stocks had made an incredible comeback since traps were banned.
The NSW opposition primary industries spokesman, Steve Whan, said he did not see any need to wind back measures the Labor Government had put in place to enhance recreational fishing opportunities.
An independent survey commissioned by the DPI found last year that each year recreational fishing was worth $360 million to the south coast and about $3.5 billion to the NSW economy.
Documents relating to the commercial fishing reform program can be found at www.dpi.gov.au
The closing date for submissions is May 19.
Commercial fisheries reform seeks comment
Commercial fishers and other stakeholders are now encouraged to provide feedback as part of the reform program for NSW commercial fishing, Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson said last week.
Ms Hodgkinson said the Commercial Fisheries Reform Program was developed in response to an Independent Review into NSW Commercial Fisheries Policy, Management and Administration in 2012.
“The proposed reforms involve linking shares in each fishery to either catch or fishing effort,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“The NSW Government has developed a $16 million structural adjustment package to provide for fishers to exit the industry and to help others set up their businesses for the future.
“The reform program aims to remove unnecessary fishing controls and improve the general management of commercial fisheries in NSW.
“The reform options papers, prepared by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), have been sent directly to commercial fishing shareholders, who can provide feedback using the included submission form, or by preparing their own submission.
“The papers are also publicly available online on the DPI website and all interested parties are invited to lodge a submission.”
The released public consultation papers outline the reform options that may apply to each of the major commercial fisheries. These include:
• estuary general;
• estuary prawn trawl;
• ocean hauling;
• ocean trap and line; and
• ocean trawl.
Ms Hodgkinson encouraged all stakeholders to help select the best approach to manage and improve the viability of the NSW commercial fishing sector and maintain the supply of fresh local seafood to restaurants, wholesalers, and people who do not fish recreationally.
“It is important to note that no decisions have been made at this stage on the options for linking shares to catch or fishing effort in each commercial fishery,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“The only exception to this is for the spanner crab (northern zone) sector where I previously approved a link between shares and catch quota after consultation with those shareholders.
“DPI staff will visit a number of ports during the next six weeks to discuss the issues and options in the consultation papers with commercial fishers.
“At the completion of the consultation process, a summary of submissions, input from key stakeholder groups and advice from DPI will be provided to the Independent Structural Adjustment Review Committee (SARC).
“SARC will then prepare final recommendations for the consideration of the NSW Government.”
All reform options papers and further information regarding the Commercial Fisheries Reform Program can be found at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/commercial/reform