CRAY fishermen are expected to oppose a proposed licence increase of more than 500 per cent for the next three years at a meeting in Warrnambool next Monday.
Warrnambool cray fisherman Peter Sandow said yesterday his fees had doubled to $12,000 this year and the proposal was to double that again to $24,000.
“They want the industry to be totally user-pay, that’s to fund all the fishery and all the research,” he said.
“I can tell you I’m not overly enthused about that. I would expect there will be a lot of very upset people at the meeting on Monday.
“The Warrnambool and Portland boys are all up in arms — it’s just too much and the government is just getting too greedy,” he said.
Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV), the peak body representing professional fishing, seafood processors and exporters in the state, will host the industry forum at Warrnambool’s Proudfoots on the River between 3pm and 5.30pm.
The purpose of the forum is to discuss the impacts of the proposed cost recovery system.
Representatives of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Fisheries Cost Recovery Standing Committee are expected to attend the forum.
Portland Professional Fishermen’s Association president David McCarthy said the proposed increase to lobster licence fees over the next three years was on top of this year’s 30 per cent rise.
The new system will bump the average licence increase from the current $1248 to more than $8000 by 2015 — an increase of 566 per cent.
“There is no reference in the regulatory impact statement that fishermen have just paid this recent increase, charge categories are fudged and the proposal is biased against smaller operators,” Mr McCarthy said.
“These proposed fees are extortionate and in conflict with the overarching legislation of the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995. The proposal seeks to impose a huge economic and social burden, limiting the ability of fishermen to reinvest in the fishery and is a disincentive to new entrants.”
Mr McCarthy said the western zone fishery was part-way through a restructure where the catch level was reduced to 37 per cent below the historical average, leading to a 55 per cent reduction in vessels from 93 to 42 and a drop in economic activity and employment.
SIV executive director Renee Vajtauer said that in a time of a contracting Victorian seafood industry due to current financial and regulatory burdens, the proposed cost recovery system provided a gloomy outlook.
She said the southern rock lobster fishery was Victoria’s second-most valuable fishery after abalone and provided employment and economic benefits to many Victorian coastal centres.
Ms Vajtauer said once-viable seafood businesses would now have to consider downsizing their operations, laying off deckhands and other workers to maintain their profitability.
“Skippers will now be forced to run the sometimes dangerous and gruelling operation of catching rock lobster on their own, as they cannot afford additional staff,” she said.
“These businesses have supported families in the west of Victoria, now they could be pushed into economic hardship through loss of employment and loss of profitability.”