Buyback deadline looming for Kangaroo Island commercial fishers

FISH DELIVERY: Tina Kleeven at Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods with commercial fisher Brian Peckover, who like the other fishers is undecided on the buy-back offer.
FISH DELIVERY: Tina Kleeven at Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods with commercial fisher Brian Peckover, who like the other fishers is undecided on the buy-back offer.

Commercial fishers on Kangaroo Island in the next few weeks will have to make the life-changing decision of whether to stay in the industry or sell up.

They are frustrated they need to decide on the buy-out offer without yet knowing what the quota allocations are for SA's most lucrative species.

The state government is hoping to buyback up to 150 commercial longline, line and net fishing licenses.

Tina Kleeven at Kangaroo Island Fresh Seafoods meanwhile is worried about whether there will be sufficient numbers of commercial fishers left on KI after the buyback.

Mrs Kleeven said there needed to be at least four or five active fishers to enable her to continue offering the range of fresh, locally caught fish she has on display and delivers to Island and mainland restaurants.

There are currently between 10 and 12 active marine scale fishers on KI.

A spokesman for new Primary Industries Minister David Basham confirmed the deadline to take the buy-back offer was November 13 and the release of the quota allocations was imminent.

Fisheries representatives from Primary Industries briefed KI fishers on the buyback process as a meeting at the Aurora Ozone Hotel earlier this month.

Former Marine Fishers Association SA president and active KI commercial fisher Mike Fooks said it was unfair to make fisherman decided on the buyback when they did not know what the total allowable catch was going to be for species such as whiting and garfish.

He said 51 fishers had already decided to take the buyback even though they did not yet know whether it was viable to stay in the industry.

"We still don't have that info and there is a not a lot of time left and we are being asked to make a life decision," Mr Fooks said.

Another concern was that licence fees for the remaining fishers would go up dramatically, as there were fewer operators paying the cost of fisheries management.

Mr Fooks said it the government either needed to make recreational fishers pay for research and compliance with a licence, or find the shortfall in general revenue.

"KI is a relatively low production area and if our costs keep going up then my business simply won't be viable," he said.

Commercial fisherman Brian Peckover only bought his commercial licence a couple of years and now like the other fishers is at a loss as to what he is going to do.

"Until we know what the quotas are going to be, it's not possible to make a decision," he said.

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