Commercial fisheries reforms spark fear

YOUNG Travis wants to become a commercial fisherman just like his dad, but whether he has future career fishing on the family boat is under a cloud.

Bermagui fisherman Matt Creek, who fishes deep on the edge of the continental shelf in the ocean, trap and line sector, fears the proposed NSW commercial fisheries reforms would devastate the state’s commercial fishing industry.

He would not be able to reinvest hundreds of thousands of dollars into his business based on his productive catch history, meaning his eight-year-old son would have no future in what is otherwise a sustainable fishery.

As if the unseasonably hot and strong East Australian Current wasn’t enough to make life tough, he has also been flat out in recent weeks explaining the review’s complexities and urging others to make a submission to the review.

Time is running out because after already one extension, submissions to the Department of Primary Industry are due this Friday.

“Out of 14 port meetings, everyone one of them was unanimously opposed to the review’s options,” Creek said. “After the submissions close, that’s it, we don’t have anymore say and its up to the review committee and the minister.”

The commercial fishing industry review meanwhile has also caught the eye of the recreational sector, although not as much as one would have expected on the local level, as it proposes to lift a number of netting restrictions on several lakes and rivers.

Given remaining net fishermen have been forced into fewer and fewer lakes and now face additional gear restrictions, the proposals by the department would open more waters.

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.

Pharmacist Rod contacted the Narooma News all the way from Sawtell on the north coast with his concerns about the impact of the netting proposals on the local lakes.

He too has been flat out raising alarm, gaining traction with groups not normally associated - the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Greens, both of which should be making submissions by Friday.

“I’m not a particularly good fisherman or affiliated to any group or party, I am just worried about the impact of these proposals on the fisheries, the anglers and these lakes and creeks,” he said.

State Member Andrew Constance recently spoke out against the netting proposals at Merimbula calling them “ludicrous and clumsy”.

The commercial fishers say he has also been sympathetic to the potential impact on the local fishing industry.

In-shore line fishermen that target kingfish face severe restrictions on the number of days they can fish, while net fishermen face gear restrictions.

Creek and the other commercial fishermen of Bermagui and Narooma are now holding their breath to see what happens.

“As far as $16-million exit grant, there are 1000 fishing businesses, active and non-active, and bringing that down by half to 500 would mean only $45,000,” he said, hardly compensation for giving up a way of life.

He hopes his son Travis can grow up to take over the family business, as he is owned his boat the Marcello since 1989 and the young fellow is already obsessed with fishing.

And while he is pretty sure the EAC will come good and back off allowing the blue eye and ling fishing to pick up, he is not so confident the Structural Adjustment Review Committee and the elected officials will come up with a workable solution.

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson on the eve of the review submission deadline this Friday has delivered on opinion piece on why change must happen.


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