Dapto’sPaul Heron has the oldest commercial fishing boat on Lake Illawarra.
The 38-year-old has trawled those waters for 20 years. But, in less than 12 months allthat experience islikely to amount to nothing.
Reform of the state’scommercial fishing industry means Mr Heron will need to buy more shares to keep his business afloat –or bepaid a one-off payment of $20,000 to call it quits.
Commercial fisherman Paul Heron, from Dapto, on Lake Illawarra. Picture: Adam McLean
TheCommercial Fisheries Business Adjustment Programwill see the introduction ofminimum shareholding,meaning fishers must hold a certain number of shares to be endorsed to fish.
At the moment, Mr Heron has 125shares –across multiple fishing categories –thatallowhim to work all year.
Without taking out a loan tobuymore shares, he would only be able to work during 9224-hour periods from July 2017.
“For me, to do what I do now it’s roughly going to cost me around the $200,000 mark or more to be in debt … and then I still don’t really know where I stand,” he said.
It’s that uncertainty that has the fisherman worried.
Fishing is all Mr Heronknows; hebought straight into a fishing business when heleft school in year 10.
Hehasa wife anda three-year-old son, with another child on the way.
“As a small operator, pretty much the government’s taking my job away,” he said.
“If the reform goes through, I’ll be stuffed.”
Mr Heron is headed to Parliament House on Wednesday, where he’ll share his storywith Labor’s spokesman for primary industries Mick Veitch and other MPs.
Fisherman Paul Heron with his son Tyson, 3. Mr Heron has fished Lake Illawarra for 20 years, but fears for the future. Picture: Adam McLean
A petition against the reform has also been placed in every fishmonger in the Illawarra, with 10,000 signatures needed to force a discussion in Parliament on the issue.
[Read the petition wording below]
Grant Logue, the owner of Harley and John’s Seafood at Fairy Meadow, said a reductionin the number of Illawarrafisherswould be reflectedat the checkout.
“It’ll be about us trying to supply good local seafood tocustomers;that won’t be around any more,” Mr Logue said, citing likely price increases.
The government says the changes will ensure the industry remainsviable.
Fishers ‘caught out’ by changesAn Illawarra Labor MP has slammed the Baird government’s management of itscommercial fishing reform process, saying people’s livelihoods have beenclouded in uncertainty.
The Opposition’s spokesman for the region, and Keira MP,Ryan Park wants thegovernment to “hit the pause button” on thedrastic changesplanned for the industry.
Earlier this month, Minister for Primary Industries, Land and Water Niall Blair extended the deadline for the first stage of its restructure until next month.
Labor wants the process suspended until more details aremade available.
“These fishers need information on the table to make informed decisions about whether to exit or remain in the industry,” Mr Park said.
A spokeswoman for MrBlair said the reforms would give fishers “more certainty and build a strong foundation for the long-term viability and sustainability of the industry”.
“We are continuing to meet with, and listen to, commercial fishers and every one of these conversations is helping shape the program,” she said.
“An independent facilitator has also been engaged to consider any other issues regarding implementation of the program.”
The petitionThe following is a copy of the petition, provided by Paul Heron. It can be signed in hard copy at anyIllawarra fishmonger.
Against NSW fisheries reform program for NSW commercial fisherman
The fisherman of NSW need the help of the community of the Illawarra and south coast to stand up and say ENOUGH to the NSW government. Our industry is under threat just like the dairy and fruit farmers, The Transport industry, the steel industry, the racing industry and now they are attacking your seafood industry.
We need to put a stop to this reform program before it starts. Fisherman like all other Australians are hardworking and devoted to their industry. They work to all weather conditions rain and wind so all Australians and tourists can enjoy our fresh, precious and pristine seafood our beautiful waters of NSW have to offer.
These reforms will greatly reduce the quality and quantity of seafood reaching Sydney fish market and will inevitably increase the prices of seafood to the consumer by an unknown amount, it could be as much as 50% for local seafood because up to 50% of local fishers could lose their jobs by the time these reform changes go through in July 2017. Not to mention the cost to commercial fishes who wish to stay in the industry, this could be as much as $200,000 in debt to the NSW government. In some cases, to buy shares in the fishing industry to be able catch to seafood as they do now.
As most people are aware this is a cost unaffordable to most fishers as most have young children and mortgages as most Australians do. This puts more pressure on fishing family’s causing stress and depression in some cases. NSW fisheries have not done any scientific research in the last 10 years to check viability and sustainability of fish stocks anywhere in the Illawarra or south coast area or marine parks which means this reform is unjust and unfair to commercial fishers and you the consumer. Fish stocks in Australia are sustainable at the current level and are also often some of the best managed fisheries in the world. Fish stocks are actually higher than they were 20 years ago. If anyone would like to read more information on fish stocks, please go to the fish stocks of Australia website or (F.R.D.C) Fish stocks stats of Australia.
COMMERCIAL FISHING REFORM EQUALS HIGHER PRICES AT THE COUNTER FOR YOU THE CONSUMER TO PAY
We need 10,000 signatures to stop this reform so please help us for the government is not listening to the Australian seafood industry.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope you will sign to help the NSW fisherman, Australians must stick together to fight for fresh Australian seafood and not let imported seafood take over our country.
WE NEED TO KEEP OUR SEAFOOD INDUSTRY AND JOBS IN AUSTRALIA.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.