Environment News: Too many fishers for too few fish

THE Independent Report into NSW Commercial Fisheries Policy, Management and Administration recently released by Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson doesn’t pull its punches.

It basically says that tinkering and interference with commercial fisheries access models in NSW have led to a situation where there are “too many fishers for too few fish”, and too much latent effort. It highlights past ministerial interference in professional fisheries management decision making and competing views within the management agency itself.

The Minister’s press release highlighted the report’s findings around industry frustration and lack of trust in and respect for the current system. It blames a lack of political commitment and allocation of financial resources to the implementation of numerous previous reviews for the fact that many commercial fishermen are struggling financially. There are too many non-viable operators due to the over-allocation of access rights in most fisheries.

The report also criticises the existing overly complex and costly consultative bodies currently in existence, including the statutory Seafood Industry Advisory Council established by former minister Ian Macdonald and the sector-specific Management Advisory Councils (MACs). All those meetings, all those sitting fees, all those lunches…..

It proposes a range of measures to address the problems, including exit grants to get operators and latent effort out of the industry, new streamlined, transparent consultative mechanisms and bodies, and appropriate splits of policy and operational authority between the minister’s office and the fisheries management agency.

The Ministerial Fisheries Advisory Council it proposes would need to balance the competing needs of the recreational, commercial, conservation and Aboriginal sectors. It would establish working parties as needed to actually get things done.

Ms Hodgkinson has agreed to establish a new Industry Liaison Position to drive implementation of the review outcomes. She re-affirms that the $16 million promised prior to the last election for industry restructuring will be forthcoming.

New industry arrangements are planned to be in place by the end of 2014, following 18 months of industry consultation. The Government will also develop a detailed final response to the report’s 22 key recommendations. The report is publicly available on the DPI website at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/commercial/reform/review

John Newbery is Fishing World’s Environment Editor.

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