Fishy plan causes a furore

Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Crayfisherman Adam Shram operates from Little Pigeon Island in the Wallaby Group. He employs two deckhands and all three have young families.
Camera IconCrayfisherman Adam Shram operates from Little Pigeon Island in the Wallaby Group. He employs two deckhands and all three have young families. Credit: Geoff Vivian

A third-generation crayfisherman operating from the Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton says WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly has done little to address his fears about the future of his family business.

Adam Schram has expressed concerns after Mr Kelly announced plans last month to increase the annual WA rock lobster quota from 6300 tonnes to 8000 tonnes.

“We’ve been given almost no information from the minister himself, let alone the rest of the Government,” Mr Schram said.

“The fishermen found out pretty much the same day as the media.”

Mr Schram operates a single-boat, single-licence business owned by his father and is worried about the effect Mr Kelly’s decision will have on the family’s existing cray pot allocations, which are business assets.

Mr Kelly said 315 tonnes of the new quota would be allocated to existing cray pot owners and the Government would own 1385 tonnes which it could sell or lease.

He has not said who will be eligible to buy or lease the WA Government-owned craypot allocations.

“The concern is with the uncertainty of the industry,” Mr Schram said.

“If the Government can step in and nationalise part of the industry, we don’t know what’s to stop them doing it again in the future to ours or other industries around Australia.”

Fishing Families, a group which claims to represent more than 200 fishers and processors, and their families, launched a campaign against the move on Thursday.

Group spokesman Clinton Moss said fishers in small coastal towns had worked hard to create sustainable industries.

“Major banks have already raised concerns with the Government, and are reviewing fishing family businesses,” he said.

“In the Mid West, a number of small businesses have already been hurt, with orders cancelled and jobs lost.

“Many families in the area live off single licence holdings and places like Geraldton will be the hardest hit by this short-term cash grab.

“We ask Mr Kelly to re-think his plan and sit down and talk to the industry.”

Acting WA Fisheries Minister Roger Cook said the plan had been out for industry consultation since mid-December and submissions would be taken until January 18.

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