Professional Fisherman's Assoc Inc
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- Professional Fishermen’s Association Inc
To meet the demands and address the opportunities within the commercial fishing sector in NSW the PFA was established in July 2009 and evolved from the previous Clarence Professional Fishermen’s Association. Members fund the PFA and the role of the Executive Officer and Executive Assistant.
The role of the PFA is diverse and broad in nature but essentially represents the interests of wild harvest fishers in many forums and to many different groups: Government (all three levels) departments, agencies and the like; with local issues that have the potential to impact on fishing (agriculture, flood mitigation, industrial, etc.); dealing with NSW Maritime; compliance issues; regulations; licencing; assisting Management Advisory Committees members; NPWS and beach access; habitat remediation; plus others too numerous to list.
In July 2009 we had 130 members and within two years this has grown to 320 representing about 40% of the active wild harvest fishers in NSW who catch about 60% - 70% by volume of the NSW commercial catch. We have no post-harvest members as our focus is to keep fishers on the water catching world class seafood for the people of NSW and beyond.
Our interest in the national food plan is to ensure the people of NSW and beyond are supplied with affordable, sustainable and high quality seafood. And the commercial fishing industry continues to provide employment and contributes to the social fabric in the communities it operates within.
Wild harvest commercial fishing in NSW has clearly demonstrated sustainability over a long period of time. This can be substantiated by the regular assessment processes through the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, structured Fishery Management Strategies, Environmental Impact Studies to name some.
A recent study in 2010 jointly funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the commercial fishing industry clearly highlights the critical importance of the industry to the local and regional economies from a social, economic and food supply perspective. The report entitled “A socio—economic evaluation of the commercial fishing industry in the Ballina, Clarence and Coffs Harbour regions” makes the following observations:
The weight and value of product caught and processed by the industry show its continued operation is vitally important, both economically and socially, for the local and regional economies in which it operates. These benefits are quantified in the economic modelling conducted as part of this report which identified the following total (sum of the direct and indirect) flow-on impacts arising from the operation of the industry:
- Output of $16.9 million
- Income generated $2.9 million
- 75 Employment positions generated
- Output of $92.0 million
- Income generated $15.4 million
- 431 Employment positions generated
- Coffs Harbour
- Output of $46.0 million
- Income generated 8.4 million
- 221 Employment positions generated
- Northern NSW
- Output of $216.0 million
- Income generated $36.1 million
- 933 Employment positions generated
The commercial fishing industry continues to make a significant contribution in terms of output, income and employment.
- Two-thirds of the money generated by the operation of the industry is spent in the local and regional economies.
- The great majority of employment opportunities associated with the industry are filled from the local communities in which the industry operates.
- The industry in Northern NSW provides about one-third of the product (fish) landed in the whole of NSW.(emphasis added)
A copy of the full report (FRDC 2009/054) has been provided with this submission.
Please note that whilst this study was for northern NSW the remaining rivers/areas along the coast (Macleay River, Manning River, Wallis Lake, Hunter River, Hawkesbury River, etc.) catch significant volumes of seafood and therefore play a vital role in socio-economic contribution to both the local community and beyond.
A study carried out by researchers from the University of Twente, the Netherlands, provides a comprehensive account of the global green, blue and grey water footprints (www.waterfootprint.org) of different sorts of farm animals and animal products, distinguishing between different production systems and considering the conditions in all countries of the world separately. Some of the main findings:
- The blue and grey water footprints of animal products are larger for industrial systems than for mixed or grazing systems. From a freshwater perspective, animal products from grazing or mixed systems are therefore to be preferred above products from the bio-industry.
- The water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value.
- About 29% of the total water footprint of the agricultural sector in the world is related to the production of animal products.
- One third of the global water footprint of animal production is related to beef cattle.
A second study carried out by the same researchers quantifies the green, blue and grey water footprints of hundreds of crops and crop products, showing variations from province to province, for all crops around the world.
The comments above are not about criticising the volume of potable water required for beef or crop production, rather, we wish to highlight the fact that none is needed for wild harvest marine protein production. And this is very relevant for the national food plan in the long term.
We can actually grow the fish stocks available for harvest with a little political will and some long term planning, cooperation and funding from all levels of government.
Wetlands serve many functions in addition to water filtering including conserving water, buffering against flooding and climate change, providing habitat for a wide range of wildlife including fish stocks, and supporting recreational activities.
Healthy estuarine wetlands provide nurseries for recreational and commercial fisheries and support a diversity of juvenile fish species, including those that are harvested for commercial purposes. At each stage of the life cycle each type of fish requires a particular habitat to survive and thrive. Only by maintaining this range of habitats can we make sure we have healthy fish populations into the future.
Despite the importance of wetlands we have witnessed their continued loss and degradation with 60-70% (Goodrich G.N. 1970) of NSW wetlands disappearing to marginal grazing and cropping land. Many hectares have been drained or lost to other functions and water quality affected by sediment, acid and low oxygen levels. The greatest single threat to wetlands historically has been drainage for agricultural purposes, accounting for the majority of total known conversions.
The fishing industry is totally reliant on habitat to ensure that fish stocks remain healthy and fisheries are sustainable. The heart of habitat is wetlands and on the NSW coastal fringe these wetlands have been reduced to 30-40% of their original mass.
The production of seafood from wetlands is extensive and without wetlands the fish stocks will become depleted and the provision of protein from seafood also impacted. As an example 10 tonnes of prawns can be produced each year from 1,000 hectares of wetlands (Turner R. Eugene 1977). The need for a long term approach to wetland rehabilitation is essential if the supply of seafood and the sustainability of the industry are to be ensured.
In addition to the need to restore wetlands the nation must examine what is being done to the rivers through off-stream impacts i.e. urban, industrial and agricultural pollution. Many of our rivers are suffering because of an attitude of turning a blind eye to unsatisfactory processes on land. This combined with sewerage treatment outflows which deliver millions of tonnes of waste directly into rivers have a deleterious impact on water quality.
The other major issue that needs to be addressed in our estuaries is the multitude of barrages that are preventing fish passage and migration and therefore have a profound impact on the ability of the fish to maximize recruitment back into the fishery. Many of these structures are now obsolete and steps need to be taken to remove them.
For example, in 1928 a weir was constructed on Sportsman's Creek, a tributary of the Clarence River in northern NSW. This was for the purposes of providing fresh water for stock upstream of the weir. No thought was given to the impact on the aquatic resources. With a catchment of 285,000 hectares, the permanent swamp of 3000 hectares was known as the ‘Everlasting’ Swamp and provided a year round sanctuary and service for aquatic resources. That function virtually disappeared when the weir was built.
Today, with the original purpose of the weir obsolete because reticulated town water is available, there is a pressing need to have the weir removed and return the 3000 hectares to its original and natural purpose - a nursery and wetland sanctuary for fish, prawns and the like. There are hundreds of examples of these types of obstructions around the country.
Using the earlier figures of prawn production this Sportsmans Creek example would produce 30,000 kilograms of prawns every year – this does not include the myriad of finfish that would also be supported by this wetland. Extrapolate this along the NSW coastline and then across the nation where wetlands could be restored and return to fish production and the volume of protein that could be produced is staggering.
Australia needs a long term plan (50 year) to prioritise, plan and deliver on wetland rehabilitation and restoration. This will produce organic, self-supporting and sustainable seafood requiring nothing more than good management, i.e., no fertilisers, sprays, cultivating, etc., plus all the other benefits delivered by wetlands including carbon sequestration.
To achieve this we need to further develop and promote mechanisms and processes where current landholders of these wetlands can be involved in the production of this seafood. They may not actually catch it but they can be part of the management and ‘guardians’ for seafood production. In return for the change in land management and use practices these landholders should be reimbursed, i.e., remunerated for their contribution to the food producing processes. This will require a substantial shift in thinking and approaches to land management.
Presently the commercial fishing industry is being locked out of vast tracks of oceans through marine protected areas and in the case of NSW through a network of recreational fishing havens. We contend and put to this national plan that we should declare the remaining oceans and estuary systems as marine protein areas and have these set aside as designated areas that are clearly and unequivocally for seafood production.
30 August 2011
07 Sep 2011