OVER THE TOP: New catch quotas are being introduced in June/July for the NSW commercial fishing industry.
OVER THE TOP: New catch quotas are being introduced in June/July for the NSW commercial fishing industry. Tom Huntley GLA270313BOAT

Reeling from the prospects of new catch quotas

LONG-TIME professional fishermen like John Wait and Russell Kerr have exited the industry fearing new NSW fishing quotas, to be introduced this year, will make earning a catch unprofitable.

Their mate, Ross Miller, who has been out of the industry for years, fears for the future of the Coffs Coast's remaining commercial fishermen.

"These quotas are going to be so hard on fishermen. I think it's almost time the fishing industry was disbanded and an inquiry was held into fishing regulations in NSW or an administrator appointed to make sure it remains sustainable and profitable to own shares in," Mr Miller said.

"The pundits, the marine biologists tell us that fishing is sustainable yet the government over the last 10 years has taken 80 per cent of fishing away from us."

In October last year, Primary Industries issued new quota shares for 17 species/species groups.

 

ex trawler owners, Ross Miller, John Wait, Russell Kerr. all from Coffs Harbour. 12 FEB 2018
OUT OF THE GAME: Former Coffs Coast commercial prawn trawlers Ross Miller, John Wait and Russell Kerr lament on the future of the fishing industry. TREVOR VEALE

New regulations were also drawn for the inshore/offshore prawn trawl sector, implementing the final recommendations of the Independent Allocation Panel on the allocation of new species and effort quota shares.

The new quota shares provide an ongoing right to receive a share of the industry's total allowable catch.

Each year, catch or effort quota will be allocated to owners of the relevant quota shares.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party representatives say the government's new quotas will have prawn trawlers' 200 days of fishing per year cut back to just 89 days on the North Coast.

To retain, more fishing hours, fishermen will have to spend around $120,000 to buy another 89 days fishing entitlement from another shareholder, they say.

 

ex trawler owner, John Wait's boat. 13 FEB 2018
John Wait says he has sold his shares in the Coffs Coast prawn trawling industry due to uncertainty surrounding the new fishing quotas. TREVOR VEALE

John Wait also says new bycatch laws will prohibit commercial fishermen from keeping the profit-making catches that keep them afloat financially.

"Knowing that your catch has to be logged on an app and will be the subject of fisheries inspections, fishermen will just have to drop bycatch over the side of the boat or face financial penalties," Mr Wait said.

"The costs of fishing have risen dramatically and bycatch has been where fishermen make their profit after the prawn catches cover the costs of a night's fishing."

Government MPs have responded saying the Coalition has invested $16 million into the fishing industry to make it more sustainable, stating that in 2017 a bipartisan Upper House committee inquiry conducted a review of commercial fishing.

"In Coffs Harbour alone, we use to have a fleet of 22 boats, now we are down to just eight," Mr Miller said.

"After the prawns pay your costs, the whiting and the other fish were the jam on the butter, take that away and there is no cream left."