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Fishers reel in reprieve

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Michelle DawYorke Peninsula Country Times

Yorke Peninsula’s commercial fishers have won a reprieve in the marine-scale fishery industry’s campaign against a steep increase in state government fees.

Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven recently announced a $1.55 million scheme over the next three years.

The scheme will subsidise quota fees for licensed King George whiting, calamari, southern garfish and snapper fishers in Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf, equating to about $150,000 per year for each species.

This comes after lobbying by the Marine Fishers Association against a new fee structure which it said increased fishing fees by more than 400 per cent, potentially forcing fishers out of business.

The new structure is to be introduced by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia in June following a review by the Marine Scale Fishery working group.

Ms Scriven said all licence holders will pay the same base fee of 30 per cent, and the other 70 per cent will be based on quota units allocated.

“It will result in those with greater access to our state’s marine resources paying more than those operators with little to no quota,” she said.

“The current fee structure did not take into account the new quotas which meant licence holders with more access to fish would pay the same as those with less.”

Reform of the MSF began under the former state government, and included the voluntary surrender of 100 fishing licences.

It is based on the cost recovery principle, under which fishers’ fees must cover the government’s costs for managing the fishery.

Ms Scriven said the subsidy was an extension of an existing licence fee offset scheme, due to end in 2024-25.

She acknowledged the reform had been difficult for fishers but said it was necessary to ensure sustainability of fishing businesses and fish stocks.

Catching up on fee changes

Marine Fishers Association executive officer Pat Tripodi said under the extended support scheme, there would be no change to the base fees, but Individual Transferrable Quota holders would receive about 30 per cent off the quota fee.

“For example, King George Whiting quota fees were $112 per unit and will be reduced to $84 per unit,” he said.

Mr Tripodi said the extended support was a step in the right direction but not a long-term solution.

“We hope we can continue discussions with the minister and her staff and progress red tape reductions and create opportunities and efficiencies in the fishery,” he said.

Yorketown commercial fisher Shane Bishop said the extended support would buy time for the industry but the overall fee structure was still inequitable.

Mr Bishop said even with the fee relief, the cost of his two licences is set to increase from $5940 to $26,924.30 in 2024-25.

“Fishers in Gulf St Vincent are still paying up to twice as much per kilogram as those who fish in Spencer Gulf,” he said.

“Through the whole reform process, it’s been obvious to me that the further you move away from Gulf St Vincent, the more generous the government is with the fees it wants to extract from us.”

Yorke Peninsula Country Times 9 January 2024

This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 9 January 2024.

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