The commercial fishing industry in New South Wales is digesting reforms which will see major changes to way its managed from July next year.
The State Government has released long-awaited measures to help fishermen either exit or grow their businesses.
It has based the reforms on recommendations made by the Structural Adjustment Review Committee (SARC) which links fishing rights with catch or fishing effort for 24 share class groups within the Estuary General Fishery, Ocean Trawl Fishery, Ocean Trap and Line Fishery, Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery and Ocean Hauling Fishery.
Grants for $1,000 will be offered to commercial fishers who want financial advice on their long-term viability in the industry.
If they choose to exit the sector, they will be eligible to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to retrain in a new profession.
Loans of up to $80,000 at a fixed interest rate of 2.5% over 12 years will also be available to viable businesses.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said $16 million had also been set aside to buy unwanted or dormant shares (fishing licenses) in the sector.
“We don’t want government owning fishing shares.
“So we’re going to use our $16 million package to subsidise the fishers that have been active, to buy the shares or extra shares they may need and also to assist those that want to leave the industry.”
Fishing co-operatives, which have been highly critical of the reform process, will be offered $30,000 grants to obtain advice on how to adjust their operations under the new catch structure.
At Ballina the local co-operative feared changes to the catch structure would force its business to close.
CEO Phil Hilliard said although the government has ‘sweetened the pot’ on reforms initially proposed, the fishery overhaul would still hurt its members.
“The co-op will never disappear, it’ll shrink to a point where we don’t have an active presence to the public.”
He said the governments’ offer of grants would be helpful for his co-op, but might not go far enough to help maintain other business models in the state.
“At Ballina, the shares are $1,500 per fishermen.
“So $30,000 will go a long way to helping fishermen leave the industry,” he said.
“If we look at co-ops further south, some are as high as $20,000 per fishermen.
“Go down to the Hunter and you’re looking at $40,000 per fishermen.
“So $30,000 is not going to make a dent in restructuring their business.”