MEDIA RELEASE - Commercial fishing still in chaos after four years of government intervention

The Labor Opposition has condemned the Minister for Primary Industries for continuing delays in providing certainty for commercial fishers, after the NSW Government’s disastrous Business Adjustment Program (BAP) reforms were implemented in May 2016. Nearly four years after the start of the BAP, commercial fishers across the industry may still potentially lose more of their catch quota. After the market process, 23 commercial fishers made 40 appeals to the Share Appeal Panel to review their allocation of shares. The deadline for applications was 28 November 2018, however the Panel to assess them was not even appointed until June 2019. Hearings did not commence until 22 October 2019, nearly twelve months after the deadline for appeals, and over a year after the shares were allocated. During this time commercial fishers were not allowed to trade their shares. Under questioning by the Labor Opposition in Budget Estimates today it was revealed that not one of the 40 appeals that were lodged has been determined in the last 15 months since the appeal deadline. There is still one appeal which has not even been heard. The Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Adam Marshall MP showed a distinct lack of knowledge about the details of the reforms and blatantly refused to reassure commercial fishers with share allocations under appeal that there would be any catch left for them by the time their appeals were eventually decided. The Department went on to describe the BAP as a “zero sum game” meaning that should a share appeal be successful (and subject to the significance in the calculation and quota allocation), there would potentially be a recalculation of quota for all commercial fishers across the whole share class that had been appealed against. This would leave all fishers in impacted share classes with changes to their catch quota as a result of the appeals. Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Jenny Aitchison MP said that the uncertainty and the length of time for the appeals process was unacceptable. “Four years on, and commercial fishers in this state still have uncertainty in how they will operate their businesses. They are either waiting for an outcome to their own appeal, or waiting to see if their quota will be changed to do someone else’s appeal. The Government has effectively left them high and dry.” “People have participated in the share trading as part of the Government’s Business Adjustment Program in good faith, and have staked their futures on a fair and sustainable fishing industry.” “Nearly four years after the reforms were started, quota allocations for commercial fishers still can be taken away from them at the stroke of a pen.” Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business, the Hon Daniel Mookhey MLC said “the commercial fishing industry has been in limbo for far too long. This has a major impact on our regional and coastal communities including Fishing Co-Ops, suppliers, and the entire seafood industry.” The NSW commercial fishing industry is worth some $90 million in direct sales, employs over 3,500 people and generates an estimated $370 million in economic activity each year. #PrimaryIndustries #CommercialFishing #BusinessAdjustmentProgram #ShareAppealPanel #SmallBusiness #NSWeconomy #JennyAitchisonMP #DanielMookheyMLC #mediarelease