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Securing our fishing future.

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Last updated: 14 December 2005

Securing Our Fishing Future

DAFF05/248M 14 December 2005

Australian Fisheries and Conservation Minister Senator Ian Macdonald has released further details of the future operating environment for the Commonwealth fishing industry as part of the $220 million Securing our Fishing Future package, as well as more information on the options available to help fishers during the transition to sustainably-managed fisheries.

On December 14, Senator Macdonald issued a formal direction to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to implement a range of measures to address overfishing and to prevent overfishing in the future.

"It is critical that decisive action is taken to ensure the sustainability of Commonwealth fish stocks, and to secure the fishing industry's future" he said. "By issuing a direction to AFMA, the Australian Government has made it very clear that it wishes AFMA to accelerate its current programmes to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, and to take a more strategic approach to setting catch limits in future."

"The Government is also concerned that in many sectors of the fishing industry, there are too many boats chasing too few fish. This is why the Australian Government has stepped in to provide a $220 million one-off assistance package to reduce the number of fishers competing for the resource."

The future operating environment for Commonwealth-managed fisheries will centre on sustainable resource management and maximising the opportunity for fishing businesses to be profitable. The Government's direction to AFMA contains a number of actions to this end, including:

● adoption of world's best practice harvest strategies for all

Commonwealth-managed fisheries to ensure a more strategic, science-based approach to setting total allowable catch levels; ● adoption of output controls in the form of individual transferable quotas

in all Commonwealth fisheries, unless strong reasons exist otherwise; ● establishment of a system of independent surveys to increase the

transparency and integrity of catch and effort information; and ● enhanced monitoring of fishing activity, for example, through the use of

observers and, increasingly, electronic means (such as vessel monitoring systems and on-board cameras).

Details of the Minister's direction to AFMA are attached.

AFMA has indicated that it will respond quickly to the direction and will shortly outline a number of changes that will need to be made across the Commonwealth fisheries, particularly for those fisheries current overfished or subject to overfishing.

A further change to the fishing environment in the south east marine region will be the creation of an extensive network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Draft plans for the proposed MPAs were released today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. The proposed MPAs will be out for public consultation during January and February 2006, finalised in March 2006, and formally declared by the end of 2006. Commonwealth and State fishers that are impacted by the MPAs will also be eligible to apply for business exit assistance.

"It is important that fishers have as complete a picture as possible of the future operating environment for Commonwealth fisheries so that they can make a balanced decision on whether to stay in the industry or apply to the Government's $150 million fishing concession buyout. The message from the Australian Government is clear: overfishing in Commonwealth fisheries is unacceptable and if you think you can't operate in that environment, you should consider applying for the buyout," Senator Macdonald said.

"There will not be any further assistance of this kind.

"Since announcing the Securing our Fishing Future package three weeks ago, my department and I have been meeting industry and State representatives to further develop its implementation arrangements."

A call for tenders in the business exit assistance (fishing concession buyout) will be released in late January 2006, and will be open for 10 weeks to allow individual businesses to consider whether they will submit a tender to exit the industry. All eligible current Commonwealth fishing concession holders will receive a copy of the tender documentation by mail.

Following the call for tenders, a series of port meetings will be held in February 2006 to explain the tender process and address queries. During this period, businesses considering whether or not to participate in the buyback may access up to $1,500 to seek professional financial planning advice to help consider their business prospects.

As announced previously, the target fisheries for the buyout are the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, and the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery. Commonwealth fisheries other than these three, and with the exception of internationally managed fisheries (such as for Southern Bluefin Tuna) and joint authority fisheries, will also be eligible to apply for the concession buyout. However, these non-target fisheries will be a lower priority in the tender process.

Funding has also been made available to assist the Northern Prawn Fishery with a transition to output controls should the industry choose to do so. The timing of any assistance in the Northern Prawn Fishery may vary from other fisheries.

Given that the geographic spread of impacts from the fisheries buyouts will not be clear until mid-2006, the proposals for the onshore assistance elements of the package of up to $50 million will not be called until May 2006 at the earliest. There will be three elements to the onshore assistance:

● business restructuring grants, where directly related businesses such as

fish processors and marine engineers can demonstrate that their turnover has been, or will be, directly and significantly impacted as a result of reduced fishing activity associated with the package; ● grants of $5,000 and $3,000 each will be paid to skippers and crew

respectively, who lose employment due to the fishing reductions, to help offset the costs of job seeking, retraining and/or relocation; and ● up to $20 million will be available for the fishing communities grants

programme to work with local business partners to fund projects capable of generating local economic activity and opportunities in communities that have been affected by the reduction in fishing activity.

All elements of the assistance package (both onshore and offshore) are being implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). The DAFF hotline for enquiries is (02) 6272 5363. Queries may also be directed to the following email address:

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald’s office: David Crisafulli (07) 4771 3066 or 0400 144 483