Net cast over fishing licence buy-outs

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-op general manager Michael Beasley says the fishing industry has welcomed news of government licence buy-outs to keep seafood sustainable and profitable.
Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-op general manager Michael Beasley says the fishing industry has welcomed news of government licence buy-outs to keep seafood sustainable and profitable. ROB WRIGHT

THE State Government's casting of the net over fishing licence buy-outs won't bring drastic cuts to the size of Coffs Harbour fleet, according to the Fishermen's Co-op.

The Co-op's newly appointed general manager Michael Beasley said the O'Farrell Government's structural adjustment packages were more suited to anglers working unsustainable or unprofitable fisheries.

In contrast, Mr Beasley said the Coffs Harbour co-operative is in the midst of a solid fishing season, which is yielding lucrative prawn, lobster and fish catches.

"Professional fishing licence buy-outs are a good option for fishermen in the long-term given the value of their vessels falls after many years of fishing," Mr Beasley said.

"The buy-out option is also suited to those weighing up the possibility of leaving the industry due to falling catches. 

"But by all accounts Coffs Harbour's professional fishermen are still recording good catches and profitability.

"If licences are bought out however the quota remains the same, it just means less fishermen working the same fishing grounds - the biggest concern to the industry really is greater marine park and sanctuary lock-outs."

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, announced the licence buy-out option unveiling the government's independent report into the NSW Commerical Fisheries Policy, Management and Administration.

Ms Hodgkinson says the government  plans to roll out a comprehensive structural adjustment program to ensure ownership of fishing entitlements is more closely linked to the level of access to the resource.

The report also calls for reform in governance to achieve a better commerical fishing balance and reform across  the lines of communication between the industry and government.

"The Report was very clear - it found that 'industry frustration with the 'stop/go' history of share management and structural adjustment, and constant changes to the reform process, caused by many government policy reversals over 15 years, led to a breakdown in trust, respect and working relations between the industry and government and even within government itself," Ms Hodgkinson said.

"The structural adjustment reform announced today will address the former Labor Government's failure to not implement share management properly, resulting in the over-allocation of access rights in most fisheries.

"Shares within each share class will be linked to resource access (i.e. catch or fishing effort) by the end of 2014.

Ms Hodgkinson said the government is committed to finding balance between a strong, viable commercial fishing industry providing sufficient supply to consumers, while maintaining the sustainability of fishery resource.

The O'Farrell Government has committed $16 million to help to restructure the commercial fishing industry.

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