Commercial fishing licence buyback hits Kangaroo Island industry

FRESH DELIVERY: Tina Kleeven and Eddy Rademacher at KI Fresh Seafoods take delivery of freshly caught King George whiting caught in Nepean Bay by commercial fisherman Mike Fooks. Photo Stan Gorton
FRESH DELIVERY: Tina Kleeven and Eddy Rademacher at KI Fresh Seafoods take delivery of freshly caught King George whiting caught in Nepean Bay by commercial fisherman Mike Fooks. Photo Stan Gorton

As many as half of Kangaroo Island's commercial marine scale fishermen have decided to surrender their licences.

Applications for nearly 130 commercial fishing licence surrenders have been received in the first step of the state government's $24.5 million reform of the marine scalefish fishery.

While the some of these pro fishers were more active than others, the loss of that many fishermen will have an impact on local fish processors and suppliers Tina Kleeven and Eddy Rademacher at KI Fresh Seafoods.

They're already having to turn away orders for King George whiting from mainland restaurants due to a lack of supply and put the following notice up at their shop:

"Due to the government buyback of commercial fishing licences, there will be times that we will not have certain local fish, this is totally out of our control.

"We will always endeavor to stock locally caught seafood, but with the loss of seven local commercial fishermen, this will be at times very difficult.

"We have had only one imported fish on the menu and this will not increase ever."

While some of the old timers would eat more readily available and sustainable species such as Tommy roughs and snook, many locals and tourists just wanted whiting.

Former Marine Fishers Association SA president and active KI commercial fisher Mike Fooks holds net and line endorsements.

He confirmed as many as half of the Island's dozen commercial fishers had taken the buy-out offer, meaning Kangaroo Island was disproportionately affected.

Other changes such as losing access to sheltered Bay of Shoals to a marine sanctuary zone meant he and the other net endorsed commercial fisherman lost access to a readily sustainable source of nettable species such as Tommy rough, salmon and garfish.

He also said it was unfair for the government to impose quotas and licence buy-backs on the commercial sector, when the recreational sector's impact on stocks was not properly taken into account.

FRESH DELIVERY: Processing freshly caught King George whiting at KI Fresh Seafoods in Kingscote. Photo Stan Gorton

FRESH DELIVERY: Processing freshly caught King George whiting at KI Fresh Seafoods in Kingscote. Photo Stan Gorton

The deadline to submit applications was November 13, with 15 proposals received to surrender net licences and 115 to surrender line licences.

The 130 licence surrender proposals were submitted from right across the state, with 35 licence proposals from Gulf St Vincent license holders, four from South East licence holders, 66 from Spencer Gulf licence holders, and 25 from West Coast licence holders.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, David Basham said the licence surrender program was an important part of the state government's $24.5 million reform of the marine scalefish fishery.

"I am really pleased with the number of applications we received - 130 surrender applications across the entire State," Mr Basham said.

"We budgeted for up to 150 voluntary licence surrenders if licence holders wanted to go as part of our historic $24.5 million reform of the marine scalefish fishery and to receive 130 applications from right across South Australia is a strong result.

"Currently there are too many fishers and not enough fish and the voluntary licence surrender program is the first step in our vitally important reform process.

"It has been a challenging reform - for the fishers and their communities, but this reform was required to ensure we have profitable seafood businesses into the future, sustainable fish stocks and to give seafood consumers the confidence that if they buy seafood from South Australia, it is sustainable."

Mr Basham said fishers who wish to participate in the exceptional circumstances process had until November 30 to apply.

"Respected retired magistrate Dr Andrew Cannon is overseeing the exceptional circumstances process and is acting as an independent adviser to the State Government," he said.

The exceptional circumstances process will assess whether a licence holders' individual circumstances are exceptional and have impacted on their fishing activity.

The fishery will be managed by individual quota, total allowable commercial catches and management zones on July 1, 2021.

For more information on the reform process visit https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/fishingreform

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