About one-third of South Australia’s 309 commercial long-line and net fishing licences will be bought back at a cost of $20 million, the SA Government has said, in an effort to bolster snapper, whiting and garfish stocks.
But the Opposition accused the Government of a move very similar to a policy it announced a week ago, with an eye to the March 17 state election next year.
Liberal fisheries spokesman David Ridgway said the Government had been given a Marine Fishers Association review of the industry more than a year ago.
“We announced [our policy] last Tuesday … so it makes you question ‘Did the Government actually plan to do this today or did we force their hand?’ I like to think we forced their hand,” he said.
“We got a copy of the report a couple of months ago. It made sense [so] we decided that we would support it if we were elected in March next year.”
SA Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said the report was finished some time ago, but the Government had waited until a consultation process was over.
“Marine scale fishers went out and discussed it with their own people and the report came back to us then, so we got it back in October,” he said.
“If you look at what the Liberals came out with last week, there’s not money allocated to it.
“It was just an idea they were going to get in and have further discussion about it for a couple of years.”
Fishing interests welcome changes
Commercial fishing and recreational anglers are welcoming the planned changes.
RecFish SA executive director Danny Simpson said fishing practices needed reform.
“We believe the commercial fishing industry needed a restructure to curtail some of the practices that we think have been contributing to the depletion of stocks,” he said.
“We certainly hope it means more fish in the water. Ultimately that’s what we’re about, getting more fish in the water.”
Port Wakefield net fisherman Bart Butson said he had noticed fewer snapper, whiting and garfish over the 25 years he had been fishing.
“It’ll take some time to get there. It has to be done in a mindful way across some years to give fishers an opportunity to decide their futures,” he said.
“Fish are a renewable resource, so managed right they’ll be there forever and that’s the exciting part.
“Our grandchildren will have a sustainable fishery to enjoy in the future.”
Licence buybacks will be voluntary and achieved over four years, the Government said.
Zone management and quota changes are also planned.