Recreational boat licences under review; BOFFFFs explained

TRANSPORT for NSW is carrying out a review of boat driver licensing and needs your comments by December 19.

According to the Maritime Management Centre of Transport for NSW, there are 492,000 recreational boat licences in NSW, which generated $19.7 million in 2013-14.

The review aims to "streamline the licensing system, cut red tape, achieve greater alignment between vessel licensing and registration" and, if possible, dovetail with the road driver licensing system.

In fact, a combined boat/road licence is to be introduced before year's end, with the road licence recording the boat licence number on the back of the card. The expiry dates are to be aligned and charges will remain unchanged.

The review considers when a licence is required, the classification and duration of licences, the process for obtaining a licence and licence fees.

Waterway management matters are outside the scope of the review.

Closing date for submissions is December 19. Go to for the review.

It suggests a number of changes, including:

A licence to operate any powered registered vessel, rather than a powered vessel operated at10 knots or more, as is now the case. That, in theory, further opens up vessel registration.

Removing the young adult licence as a separate licence class, but licences to continue to be issued to those from 12 to 16 years with restrictions.

All holders to have the option of taking a one-year, three-year or five-year licence and a 10-year licence be introduced.

The mandatory requirement to complete a boating safety course be removed, with free online access to the boating safety course. Practical boating training and the knowledge test, administered only by RMS or Service NSW, to be retained.

The registration of training providers to be streamlined.

BOFFFFs rule

A COMPILATION of US research indicates that big, old, fat, fertile, female fish - known as BOFFFFs to the scientists - are essential for ensuring that fishery stocks remain sustainable.

"Information on many different kinds of freshwater and marine fish tells the same story," says lead author Dr Mark Hixon, of the University of Hawaii.

"The loss of big fish decreases the productivity and stability of fishery stocks.

"This loss, known as size and age truncation, typically occurs in all fisheries."

Methods of saving big fish include slot limits, where regulations allow the capture of only medium-sized fish, as well as marine reserves, where some fish are allowed to spawn over their entire life spans.

There are multiple ways BOFFFFs benefit fish populations.

Larger females produce far more eggs than smaller fish. A Hawaiian a 68cm bluefin trevally produces 84 times more eggs than a 30cm fish.

Secondly, co-author Dr Susan Sogard, of the US National Marine Fisheries Service, reports that "larger fish can produce better quality eggs that hatch into young that grow and survive better than young from smaller females".

Co-author Dr Darren Johnson, of California State University, says, "BOFFFFs often spawn at different times and places than younger females, which increases the odds that some young will find favourable environments in an unpredictable ocean."

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