Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Fishing ban without a plan threatens prawn industry: Saunders, Williamson

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The Hon. Dugald Saunders, Leader of the NSW Nationals, The Hon. Richie Williamson, Member for Clarence (NSW), Joint Media Release, 14 June 2023

Leader of the NSW Nationals Dugald Saunders and the Member for Clarence Richie Williamson have called on the NSW Government to be more transparent about the support being provided to the Northern Rivers prawn industry.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said a last-minute ban has been dropped on the industry without any certainty about the future.

“The government buried a two-year fishing ban for prawn fishers on the Clarence River in the government gazette on the 9th of June and rushed out a jumbled funding announcement four days later,” Mr Saunders said.

“There is no detail on how the support announced for the prawn fishers can be used or whether it will be enough to get them through a two-year ban without an income.

“There has been a complete lack of transparency, communication and detail on this announcement which only compounds the uncertainty currently held by the industry.  

“The government is completely confused and is looking to run away from this problem as fast as it can,” he said.

The NSW Government announced a $21.4 million funding package that only adds up to $18.5 million over two years, half of which simply waives administration fees.

Clarence MP Richie Williamson said financial support for fishers on the Clarence River needs to match the magnitude of losing two years of their income.

“This ban without a plan has the potential to wipe-out our local prawn industry,” Mr Williamson said.

“While any new funding is welcome the government needs to tell fishers exactly how this funding will help them and if there will be more support in the future.

“We have gone well beyond the need to waive licence and administration fees and need more detail about what the government will do to get this industry through the next two years.

“Australians love their locally caught prawns and I think they would be distressed to know how close we are to losing this industry.

“While state and federal governments continue to allow green prawns to be imported into Australia from countries where the disease is endemic while simply “batch testing” bunches, we are not on a level playing field.

“Severe biosecurity control orders that hurt our local industry count for little while we leave the back door open to potential new incursions,” he said.

CEO of the Clarence River Fisherman’s Cooperative Danielle Adams said if the control order on the Clarence Estuary is not managed well, there won’t be a prawn industry on the Northern Rivers in two years’ time.

“This is a critical industry for the northern rivers and our state and needs urgent, long-term support to make it through this fishing ban”, Ms Adams said.

“The industry is also baffled by the inconsistent standards that apply to domestically caught prawns and imported prawns, compounding the situation. 

“We can’t have one standard for fishers in NSW catching prawns but allow imported prawns into Australia that pose a significant biosecurity risk. 

“Federal and state governments need to act immediately to fix this loop-hole,” she said.


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