COMMENT: What is happening with the NSW Southern Fish Trawl Restricted Fishery?

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BACK in April, a video was posted online by a very frustrated NSW south coast based commercial fisher about the dumping of fish in NSW and why it occurs. He also explained NSW Fisheries did not want this information disclosed.

You can watch the video here (language warning).

Almost two years earlier, the Recreational Fishing Alliance was approached by representatives of 22 of the 23 commercial fishing operators in the Southern Fish Trawl Restricted Fishery (SFT). They were seeking a pathway to allow the recreational sector to acquire access rights and fund an exit strategy for their members. The commercial operators offered the permanent removal of fish trawling and signed letters of intent based on a total price of $24 million. This would have covered waters between Sydney to Victoria (out to three nautical miles) to become trawl free.

NSW currently has jurisdiction for commercial fish trawling in waters within three nautical miles (nm) off the NSW coastline between Sydney and the Victorian border – known as the Southern Fish Trawl Restricted Fishery (SFT). NSW Fisheries proposes to relinquish the management of this area to the commonwealth under a wider commonwealth management plan. Is this a smart move for NSW commercial and recreational fishers?

Many SFT commercial fishers have current commonwealth trawl endorsements (waters outside three nautical miles) that wil allow them to keep fishing. Similarly, NSW ocean trap and line commercial fishers can still fish and provide local fresh product to consumers.

Under NSW Fisheries’ proposed transition process to the commonwealth, there are changes to size limits of fish that the commonwealth operators would be able to take in NSW waters (inside three nm) — changes which we believe ignore the body of science that underpin existing size limits.

For example, two important recreational and commercial fish – snapper and silver trevally – are listed by NSW DPI as being “growth overfished”. However, the transition proposes that commonwealth trawlers in NSW state coastal waters (inside three nm) would have no size limits for snapper and silver trevally. Aren't NSW recreational size limits meant to protect inshore spawning stocks, protect inshore fish nursery grounds and allow fish to reach maturity and complete their breeding cycle? 

The RFA has also requested that NSW Fisheries reveal bycatch and discard data and details on supposed independent observers on vessels and their preliminary reports and data. But no information has been provided on the SFT. RFA believes no information is actually collected. You would think this valuable data is collected, shared, scrutinised and acted upon in the best interests of the fish, recreational and commercial fishers and the community?

The RFA does not know of any fishing club, recreational fishing association, tackle shop or local tourism business that supports the transition to the commonwealth. The NSW Recreational Fishing Advisory Council (RFNSW), which directly advises the minister, did not support the NSW Fisheries proposal, and instead supports the exploration of an exit grant strategy.

The NSW Fisheries transition proposal is a major mistake.

The RFA has written to the new minister, Adam Marshall, and is eagerly awaiting an update on the SFT. Read the letter here.

The RFA will continue to work with SFT operators to help resolve these issues and commends the commercial fisher for blowing the whistle on what they are forced to do under the current “rules”.

For more information: www.rfansw.com.au

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