Warren Lynam

New laws could cut jobs from Northern Rivers fishing co-ops

NORTH Coast fishermen are rightly suspicious about proposed law changes that threaten to bring the industry to its knees, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis says.

Mr Gulaptis has told parliament a plan to make fishers "buy back their jobs and reinvest tens of thousands of dollars to catch the same volume of seafood they catch today" would jeopardise about 70 jobs in the Clarence and 30 in Ballina.

"I have also met with a number of fishermen and representatives from the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative and the Ballina Fishermen's Co-operative," he said.

"Both have reviewed the new package and consider that whilst marginally better than the first, it will still devastate the fishing industry in New South Wales."

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Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative chairman Don Mowbray said the industry was hoping for a parliamentary inquiry to investigate the true impact of the proposed changes, which he said would force fishers to pay more for fishing rights without increasing their catches.

"It is an absolute train wreck waiting to happen," he said.

"They are virtually saying, 'Trust us, it will come out alright'.

"But we have been dudded, big time."

Mr Mowbray said he hoped to achieve with the government at large what he had managed with Mr Gulaptis.

"The (laws) nearly made it through, but we still have to convince the government - to lay it on the table and explain in simple terms what the damage will be," he said.

"Chris was originally convinced it was going to be fine.

"It wasn't until we actually showed him the real sums and costs that he realised.

"This act almost went through because the politicians don't understand what is really happening."

Mr Gulaptis said the industry must be fully briefed on the restructure and supported, rather than have it thrust upon them.

"We cannot afford to get this wrong," he said.

"If we do, there will be less fresh seafood in NSW and imports will increase.

"This will mean that the restructure has simply strengthened our competitors at the expense of the local fishing industry."

-APN NEWSDESK



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