Fishers want reform input

Local commercial fishermen are hoping to have an input on the state government’s marine scalefish structural reform through an industry group formed by the Marine Fishers Association.

The state government announced last Monday that an advisory committee will be established to help develop and implement the reform package which includes a $20 million voluntary buy-back of 80 longline and 20 net fishing licences as well as the introduction of zoning and quota management regulations.

The West Coast Professional Fishermen’s Association (WCPFA) raised concerns about the reform and called on Minister for Fisheries Tim Whetstone to reconsider the previous government’s reform package.

WCPFA president and Marine Fishers Association (MFA) executive Jeff Schmucker said the state government’s advisory committee would be fed information and preferences from an industry group formed by the MFA.

Mr Schmucker said the MFA had requested the formation of an industry group to feed information to the state government’s reform committee.

“The group will comprise seven executive members and six licence holders,” he said.

He said the MFA aimed to provide a balanced view of all licence holders across the state.

The state government’s Fisheries Reform Advisory Committee will consist of six commercial marine scale fishery members, a rock lobster fishery member, a recreational fisher, and an independent chairperson and economist. 

The key reforms to be discussed by the committee include introducing zones, a transferable quota system and fleet rationalisation.

Mr Schmucker said WCPFA was actively involved in the entire process.

“The association boasts 50 licence holder members between Ceduna and Port Lincoln and [is] growing,” he said.

“Last week saw the unprecedented show of support, interest and concern with the reform – ten members made the trip to Adelaide to attend a seminar at the University of Adelaide regarding fisheries management at a national and international level.

“The following day a special general meeting of the MFA was attended to make some alterations to the constitution to invite more expertise on to the executive committee to ensure that true representation of licence holders is attained – the meeting was attended by over 30 licence holders from around the state [and] many of the attendees experienced for the first time a meeting and the processes that come with it.”

Mr Schmucker said that was a “good sign” for an industry facing wholesale changes.

Mr Whetstone said in his Facebook announcement on Monday night that there would be opportunities for industry input in the design of the reform, time frames of the reform and the implementation of any voluntary licence buybacks.

“I encourage all Marine Scale Fishers to actively participate throughout this process to ensure their voice is heard,” he said.