THE head of the Newcastle Fisherman’s Cooperative says he doesn’t know how many members will leave as a result of the Baird government’s commercial fishing reforms.
Robert Gauta has told a NSW parliamentary inquiry that the reforms had led to “uncertainty” over how many of its members “will stay and how many will go”.
Set to come into play from the middle of 2017, the government’s reforms to the $90 million commercial fishing industry link fishing rights with catch levels.
The government argues the reform will make the industry sustainable, but the introduction of minimum shareholdings will also mean commercial fishers may need to increase their holdings to maintain the same catch level.
The parliamentary inquiry was set up as a result of what its chair, Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Brown, called “considerable angst in the commercial fishing industry”.
“The committee will examine, among other things, the economic modelling underpinning the restructure, as well as how other jurisdictions have approached restructuring their fishing industries,” Mr Brown said.
Speaking at a hearing earlier in December, Mr Gauta said he wasn’t sure how many of the cooperative’s 105 members would consider compensation offered by the government to hand in unwanted shares.
“We have not guessed how many may or may not stay,” he said.
“Not all will say what they are planning to do; some of them are keeping it to themselves and some are making it clear.
“We will have wait to see what is left at the end of the reform process.”
Asked by the inquiry what the impact would be if the cooperative lost members, Mr Gauta said it would be “tough”.
“We have been a successful business for many years, and we are in a good position to deal with whatever comes,” he said.
“If we were to lose members, that would be tough.
“The cooperative makes money when the fishers catch fish; it is that simple … fewer fisherman would mean fewer fish.”