INDUSTRY THREAT: Ballina professional fisherman Cliff Corbett says quotas imposed on catches are threatening the industry.
INDUSTRY THREAT: Ballina professional fisherman Cliff Corbett says quotas imposed on catches are threatening the industry. Graham Broadhead

Fishing quotas 'killing local industry'

CLIFF Corbett has been fishing professionally in Ballina for 40 years but reckons a quota system brought in by the NSW Government is killing the industry locally.

Under the system, individual boats are allocated a quota of species as well as a limit on the number of days the fishers can work.

While Mr Corbett said the quotas could be leased or sold to other vessels, he said the restriction on the catch was limiting fishers' incomes - particularly when the fluctuating prices are low - at a time when other costs such as fuel, maintenance, insurance and gov-ernment licences were going up.

The quotas have been in for some time but have reportedly been affecting fishers incrementally.

"It (the industry) was sustainable before this (quotas) started," Mr Corbett said.

He said local fishers were "the scientists" when it came to their knowledge and had previously operated on gentlemen's agreements not to catch certain species or certain gender fish during breeding and other times of the year.

"That's why there is an industry still left," he said.

He said fishers were already controlled by Mother Nature and further government-imposed restrictions were affecting livelihoods.

Under the quota system, the fishers have to estimate and report at sea the weight of their catch, then report the confirmed weight once they are ashore. Catch that is over the allowed quota has to be thrown back at sea.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said: "The NSW Government is committed to doing everything possible to support our state's important commercial fishing industry and we are providing our fishers with the ability to invest in their businesses, with more certainty than ever before.

"The implementation of catch and effort quotas was done based on independent expert advice and extensive consultation with the industry over many years.

"Quota management offers commercial fishers security and certainty, whereby fishers get their share of the Total Allowable Catch or Effort for a fishery."