The Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-Operative faces losing one third of its annual income due to the ban on commercial fishing in the Clarence River following the detection of the white spot virus at Palmers Island prawn farms.
Co-Operative Chief Executive Officer Danielle Adams said green school prawns account for one third of the Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-Operative’s CRFC annual seafood income.
“Green school prawns account for a third of CRFC’s annual seafood income, we are still experiencing financial hardship from 2021 and 2022 floods where we were also ineligible for flood relief packages,” she said.
“The White Spot outbreak risks the viability of the business and the hundreds of local jobs CRFC supports if financial assistance is not made available.
“Directly, CRFC supports more 700 local Clarence Valley residents.
“Taking into account other businesses, contractors etc, this is closer 2000.”
On February 16, a temporary control order was issued including restrictions on the movement of raw, uncooked green prawns out of an area defined as the Clarence River Control Zone, while containment, source detection and surveillance activities are underway.
In a statement on their website, The NSW Department of Primary Industry says, ‘the control order, issued under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, is in place until 14 June 2023 and restricts the movement of raw, uncooked decapod crustaceans from the Clarence Estuary while containment, source detection and surveillance activities are underway.
The control order supports biosecurity risk management activities, which underpin the continuation of trade in NSW and other parts of Australia. Investigation of all potential White Spot entry pathways is underway.
The control order means prawns and polychaete worms may only be moved out of the Clarence River Control Zone if they have been cooked.’
On Monday April 17, Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan and State Member for Clarence, Richie Williamson called on the Federal and State Labor Governments to provide immediate financial assistance to the Clarence commercial fishing and aquaculture industry.
“We have local commercial fisherman, and farms who have received no income for the past 2 months due to the February White Spot Disease (WSD) detection and resulting control order on the Clarence Estuary,” Mr Hogan said.
“These are local families with mortgage repayments and other household expenses who need to put food on their tables and need income support now.
“Temporary income support for the Clarence industry is needed immediately, and I am calling the State and Federal Labor Governments to act as a matter of urgency.”
State Member for Clarence, Richie Williamson said, “The CRFC and its shareholders have been severely affected by the control order leaving many jobs at risk.”
“This control order remains in place at a critical time for the prawn industry with prawns in season, and the sector in the middle of what is usually the most profitable time of the year.” Mr Williamson said.
“It has also placed significant financial pressure on individual commercial fishers and their families who have been without income for some eight weeks.”
“I urge the NSW agriculture Minister to work in collaboration with the NSW DPI and her Federal counterpart to provide immediate temporary income support for businesses impacted by this.”
The CV Independent will further report on the impact the control ban is having on the local fishing industry in next week’s edition.
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 19 April 2023.