Historic fisheries reform gets underway

The biggest ever reform of South Australia’s commercial fishing industry is now under way with the Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) voluntary licence surrender program open for applications today.

The voluntary licence surrender program is part of the Marshall Liberal Government’s $24.5 million reform package to increase the profitability of fishing businesses, grow sustainable fish populations, and improve opportunities for recreational fishers.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said licence holders have from today until mid-November to decide whether they want to remain in the fishery.

“This is the first step in our historic $24.5 million Marine Scalefish Fishery reform package aimed at improving the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in South Australia and increasing the profitability of fishing businesses,” said Minister Whetstone.

“We are taking decisive action to reverse the decline in all fishing sectors experienced under 16 years of Labor by tackling a major problem in our waters, too many fishers and too few fish.

“Our reform process starts today with the voluntary licence surrender program to give licence holders the opportunity for a dignified exit from the industry before the remaining reforms are implemented.

“Fishers looking to leave the industry can submit their offers to surrender their licences at any stage from now until 13 November 2020, with a process in place to enable the first assessment of offers to occur by the end of June for those wanting to exit before the end of the financial year.

“Individual offers received by PIRSA will be assessed and authenticated against established criteria with the process to be overseen by an independent probity adviser.

“The State Government has budgeted for up to 150 licences to be surrendered under the program including longline, line and net fishing licences.”

In addition to the voluntary licence surrender program, other elements of the $24.5 million Marine Scalefish Fishery reform package, which will be fully implemented by 1 July 2021, include:

  • Introduction of four regional fisheries management zones: West Coast, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent/Kangaroo Island and South East;
  • Introducing a total allowable commercial catch for priority species, such as King George whiting, snapper, southern calamari and southern garfish;
  • Allocate quota to fishers, which will be transferable, to manage commercial catch limits
  • Cap marine scalefish fishers’ fee increases to CPI for four years;
  • Cut fishing red tape by at least a third to remove unnecessarily prescriptive rules

Minister Whetstone said all fishers will receive full details on the proposed implementation of the remaining reform package by mid-July to assist them in deciding whether to remain in the industry.

“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,” said Minister Whetstone.

“The changes will see fewer longliners and net fishers in the gulfs, more profitable businesses, sustainably set commercial catch limits and more room for recreational fishers to try their hand at catching a feed for their families.”

Offers by MSF licence holders under the voluntary licence surrender program must be submitted to PIRSA no later than Friday 13 November 2020.

For more information on the proposed Marine Scalefish Fishery reform process and the voluntary licence surrender program visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/licence-surrender

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