Russell Kerr says it's only a matter of time before wild seafood disappears.
Russell Kerr says it's only a matter of time before wild seafood disappears. The Advocate

Fishermen feel fuel price bite

FRESH, wild-caught seafood could become a thing of the past unless something is done about the rising cost of diesel, according to local commercial fishermen.

With prices of diesel hitting in excess of $1.90 a litre along the Coffs Coast in the past week, many fisherman are being forced to hang up their nets because they just can't afford to work.

Commercial fisherman Geoff Blackburn and Russell Kerr say if the cost of diesel continues to rise, there will ultimately be no access to wild-caught seafood.

"It's a real problem. With diesel prices rising, and product prices down, it's a real double whammy," Mr Blackburn said.

"Boats are tying up all the time, just because the owners can't afford to work. They've often got house payments or payments on their vessel, and they just can't do it."

Mr Blackburn said in the past 18 to 24 months, the cost of filling a small tank has more than doubled.

"On the smallest scale, an outboard motor used to cost around $12.50 for a tank of fuel; now it's $40."

"Seafood is a proven viable and sustainable industry. I'd like to see it become protected as a vital part of the economy."

Mr Kerr, who is also director of the Coffs Harbour Deap Sea Fishermans Co-operative, said the prices have a domino affect on the industry.

"In a 55- to 60-foot prawn trawler, we are using about 700 litres per night. That's heading towards $1000 a night, just on running costs," he said.

"It's really starting to sink in now boats are beginning to change the way they fish.

"Owners are starting to lose staff to more lucrative land-based jobs.

"Now we're starting to see (the price rise) bite into the co-op, if boats aren't trawling, it affects the turnover of our fish supply."

"At this stage, the industry is looking for answers. I don't know what we're going to do but unless some solution is found, it's only a matter time before wild-caught seafood starts to disappear."

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