Fishers baulk at SA fees
Commercial fishers have criticised South Australia’s new licence fees.
The state government has announced new fishing licence fees as a licence buyback gets underway.
The Marine Scalefish Fishery voluntary licence surrender program is now open for applications, giving fishers given until November 13 to decide whether they want to remain in the industry.
The Government expects up to 150 licences will be surrendered, including longline, line and net fishing licences.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone says it is just the first step of a $24.5 million reform package aimed to improve the long-term sustainability and profitability.
But the Marine Fishers Association, which represents over 300 commercial fishers across South Australia, has criticised the licence fees to be paid by fishers.
The lobby says the industry cannot handle licence fees that are more than 12 per cent of revenues.
The association's acting executive officer Dr Gary Morgan said the high fees go against the Government’s aim of reforming the industry to increase economic viability.
“At this time, when the impacts on the industry are severe due to the corona virus epidemic, the government is planning to increase fishing licence fees by CPI over the next four years, despite these fees already being at record levels,” he said.
“The government has failed to recognise the major impacts on the industry due to the coronavirus impacts and, unlike most other states and territories, has also failed to assist the industry by waiving licence fees.
“Instead, they have merely deferred fees until January 2021.”
Dr Morgan said the record fees come at a time when the Government is also failing to address the impacts on the industry from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is concerned it will drive many small businesses into bankruptcy.
Mr Whetstone said fishers are waiting on details on the proposed implementation of the remaining reform package.
“We have consulted with fishers and we are now implementing a transformative reform package, funded by the South Australian community, which will improve the sustainability of our fish stocks and the viability of seafood businesses reliant on these species,” he said.