Fisheries management article - new regulations

Not expressing any comment one way or another on the below, but thought a few people might find it interesting.

No guarantee as to whether or not the links in it will work.




The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria seems to have nearly gotten away with very limited consultation before undertaking the most extensive reform of fisheries in Australia's history.

It's about capping catches and enabling trade between 270,000-700,000 people in recreational fishing, 400-800 in commercial fishing and the entire Aboriginal community. All with just one month's consultation planned and a report on the web that still has the wrong closing date for submissions, and that has been extended from November to March.

The document Future Fisheries Strategies -- Proposals to Reform was released in October. There are no descriptions of any fisheries -- and no economic data on the income and jobs they generate for regional economies, tourism or Aboriginal people. There is no clear argument made for the need to reform. The environment and habitat, relied on by fish, is mentioned but its protection and legislative change to manage it, is ruled out.

It's not just what it tells you that is worrying -- it is what it leaves out -- the management costs and red tape implied and possible -- all sounding much like management that's done elsewhere.

It was likely drafted with an ex-manager from New Zealand Fisheries where almost all fisheries, except recreational fishing, is under tradable quota mostly owned by a handful of companies.

The language used, such as "best available science" is American and the international group, the Worldwide Fund for Nature is said to have replaced Victorian National Parks Association in representing marine conservation. The membership of the Stakeholder Reference Group, which appears to have overseen the development of this reform, has not been revealed.

The "strategy" cites the Canadian halibut fishery as an ideal example:

"This case study highlights the potential for market based resource allocation mechanisms as an alternative way to manage the competition between commercial and recreational fishing when the resource is fully utilised and it is unacceptable to allow recreational catches to continue to grow in an unconstrained way."

Quota management applies in Canada and many Commonwealth fisheries. It is about capping the catches and enabling the most efficient operators to buy and trade quota from the least efficient with fish "ownership" often shifting to the corporate sector.

The practice in Victoria outlined in this proposal involves regulating every catch in every fishery. This kind of management assumes that only the catch of fish set their population. This is plausible in the public mind for commercial fisheries -- but not for people catching fish with hooks. This is especially so when tagging shows many commercial fish and recreational species fished, range through Bass Strait to Tasmania and even across to New Zealand. It goes on to say:

"It has the potential to provide a way to enable recreational fishing to grow, whilst providing a choice about either cutting bag limits or buying commercial quota. However, the trading system can only work well if the governance structures are well developed -- it needs to be clear what entity will be able to buy, hold and trade shares on behalf of the recreational sector. Information about the level of take from each sector is also critical to make this system work."

In consultation, Fisheries said that this was just an example -- not a model -- but it sounds like a plan.

The Department of Primary Industries' Future Fisheries Strategies -- Proposals to Reform would need the largest government department in Victoria to tax and manage the catches and trade in units of the catch landed by everyone who catches a fish.

On TV now is the New Zealand-made series Coastwatch on Channel Seven at 7.30pm Sundays. It shows New Zealand enforcement officers at massive roadblocks prosecuting families for catching too many pippies, fish and their abalone-poa, etc. Is this what this reform means for Victoria's or indeed Australia's future?

This "strategy" is vague, badly written and yet proposes irreversible effective privatisation of all fish, formerly "common property", to be enshrined in "yet to be revealed" legislation. Under this strategy, all commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fishfolk will be directly impacted and will pay for it under "full cost recovery". The public will pay through the high price of fish, loss of jobs and tourism.


When asked by a non-fisherman 'how many fishing rods do you really need?' the correct answer is either:

n+1 (where n is the number of fishing rods you currently own); or

n-1 (where n is the number of fishing rods which would cause your significant other to dump you.