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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fishing shake-up will bite

The Mercury: Fishing shake-up will bite [24nov05]

MASSIVE reform strategy for the fishing industry will hit Tasmania hard but a $220 million package will soften the blow, says a leading fisherman.

Federal Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald announced the shake-up yesterday, saying it was the largest structural adjustment package ever offered to the Australian fishing industry.

"It will help secure Commonwealth fish stocks and a profitable future for the fishing industry," Senator Macdonald said.

He predicts up to 1200 of Australia's professional fishermen in Commonwealth waters will leave the industry.

The orange roughy and scallop fishery in Tasmania could be among two of the hardest hit areas.

Devonport fisherman Stuart Richey, managing director of Richey Fishing, has welcomed the plan.

Mr Richey was an inaugural member of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, set up to secure the nation's fisheries.

He said yesterday it was a courageous move by the Government for which it should be congratulated.

"They are really trying to put a number of fisheries back on a sustainable footing without hurting the families involved," Mr Richey said.

"There will be some serious cuts in quotas, and when people see the detail they will have to sit down and decide whether they stay or go.

"But at least no one is going to be pushed out."

Mr Richey said the immediate impact on Tasmania was impossible to predict.

He said some fisheries were gradually coming back to sustainability with better management, but this would move the process along.

"There may be a little more pain up front, but it will be easier in the long run," Mr Richey said.

Senator Macdonald said the Government had listened to industry, scientists and "sensible" environmentalists.

"The centrepiece of the package is $150 million for a one-off, capped fishing concession buy-out focused on reducing the high level of fishing capacity in those Commonwealth fisheries that are subject to overfishing," he said.

Another $70 million would be available to associated activities such as fish processors and ship chandlers, and grants of up $5000 and $3000 respectively to skippers and crew who lost employment as a result of catch cuts.

State Fisheries Minister Steve Kons said he was still awaiting the detail of the package.

"Once received I will be discussing it with the industry representatives," Mr Kons said.


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