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Fishing for a future

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Michelle Daw, Yorke Peninsula Country Times

Commercial fishers are hoping the release of a state government report on its controversial cost recovery model will bring about changes, enabling them to stay in business.

The Report of the Independent Cost Recovery Review Panel from October 2023 was released by Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven on Tuesday, February 20.

The minister also released the government’s response to the report.

Yorke Peninsula fishers with quotas for King George whiting, garfish and calamari in Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf say the new fee structure will increase their fees by more than 400 per cent and could force them out of business.

The new fees, based on fishers paying the full cost of government fisheries management, will take effect from July 1.

Ms Scriven said the government accepted 28 of the report’s 33 recommendations.

“Areas for improvement which were identified included regular benchmarking and review of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia’s compliance and research programs, and a more comprehensive performance framework for cost recovery,” she said.

“The government is not considering the panel’s recommendation to introduce a recreational fishing licence.

“Industry stakeholders were engaged extensively throughout this review process, and we will continue to liaise with our fisheries and aquaculture sectors about the panel recommendations and our response to the panel’s findings.”

Marine Fishers Association executive officer Pat Tripodi said the report shows how cost recovery can be applied more fairly to enable small fishing businesses to be viable.

“It highlights there are other beneficiaries to the seafood resource, namely recreational fishers and the general public, not just the commercial fisher,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how the minister comes up with a strategy to ensure costs are spread amongst all beneficiaries to relieve the commercial sector of contributing the lion’s share of the management costs.”

Mr Tripodi said SA is one of the only states or territories to charge commercial licence holders for the costs of compliance.

Unfair quotas hurt local fishers

Curtamulka-based commercial fishers Tony and David Short both have quotas to fish in Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf and said cost recovery will put their businesses at risk.

“I am not going to be able to afford to keep fishing,” Tony said.

“There is no real future in it.”

David said only Spencer Gulf zone and Gulf St Vincent fishers have been forced to adopt quota management.

“For reasons unknown to me, West Coast and South East fishing zones do not have quota allocations so fishermen in these zones only pay the base fee,” he said.

“The quota-allocated unit fee for fish differs not only between the different species but between the same species depending on which gulf that fish is caught from.

“Those with a larger number of quota allocated units for King George whiting in Gulf St Vincent will pay a larger fee for the same amount of fish than someone with Spencer Gulf quota allocation.”

Member for Narungga Fraser Ellis said it is time to move away from the full cost recovery model.

“There are obviously too few fishers and the impost obviously too high to remain with the status quo,” he said.

“I also remain concerned about the panel’s overall assessment despite previous reviews, there remains concerns about transparency around costs and what activities relate to what fishery sectors.”

Opposition primary industries spokesperson Nicola Centofanti said the minister’s delay in releasing the report and the government’s response has put livelihoods at risk.

“The timelines for implementation for some of the recommendations are simply not good enough and ignore the dire nature of the sector at this time,” she said.

“It is critical this doesn’t become just another review with no action.”

Yorke Peninsula Country Times 27 February 2024

This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 27 February 2024.

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