COMMENT: Berejiklian Government trashes fishing in ocean waters

Fisheries Minister Niall Blair.

FISHERIES Minister Niall Blair has been bullied into allowing uncontrolled and damaging fish trawling in inshore coastal waters. He intends to surrender management of fish trawling inside 3 miles to the Commonwealth, who will allow massive trawlers from interstate to drag their nets right into the surf zone from Barrenjoey to the Victorian border. These boats can take unlimited amounts of snapper, kingfish, tailor, bream, luderick, mullet and Australian salmon. Juvenile and immature fish will no longer be protected as no size limits apply to these boats. Spawning aggregations will also be targeted with impunity. The destructive trawl nets used by these boats will destroy sensitive fish habitats and fish breeding grounds. Fish stocks will be decimated with devastating effects for recreational and commercial fishers all along the NSW coast and for the food chains that rely on these fish.

No cogent rationale has been provided to explain the reasons for this capitulation. The deal was apparently cooked up between AFMA and NSW Fisheries managers in an attempt to reduce small-scale rorting of the Commonwealth’s Quota Management Scheme (QMS) by a handful of boats and passed off under the guise of “better management”. Alternative management options were not canvassed and the claims of improved and cheaper management are dubious and unsubstantiated. An inadequate risk assessment failed to identify and properly assess the suite of risks associated with the proposal and did not examine the catch, effort and cost information required. The impacts on other fisheries that utilise the QMS species or on non-QMS species were not considered. There is no business case and no cost-benefit analysis provided to justify the preferred position.

From the beginning this process has failed to consult with the people who will be affected by the transfer of jurisdiction. NSW recreational fishers, charter boat operators, the fishing tackle and boating services sector, indigenous interests and the conservation movement have been deliberately shut out of discussions. This means that key options have not been considered, significant impacts have been ignored and the long-term consequences disregarded. The process has been a sham to date and totally inadequate.

The future of fish trawling in inshore waters south of Barrenjoey is important with far-reaching impacts and must be addressed through comprehensive consultation with all affected parties. All options must be explored and the long and short-term costs and benefits properly considered. To achieve this the consultation process must be re-commenced and conducted appropriately and meticulously.

Simply handing fish trawling in inshore waters to the Commonwealth without thorough consideration of the consequences will be a disaster with long-term fisheries management and environmental repercussions.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance asks that the NSW Government halt the current process and undertake comprehensive consultation on the best way to manage inshore fish trawling in inshore waters south of Barrenjoey into the future.

It’s time for the recreational fishers of NSW to be included in the discussions about the South East Trawl, and have their voice heard about the impacts on the environment, the fish and the recreational-fishing-based tourism industries of our coastal towns. Get in touch with your local Member of Parliament and ask what he or she is doing about the South East Trawl.

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