APOLLO Bay fishermen fear a government “money grab” will drive the town’s rock lobster fishermen out of business.
Rock lobster fisherman Markus Nolle said people in his industry must pay and comply with more than 20 different fees, licences and compliance obligations just to go fishing.
The fees include licensing, fisheries management, quotas, pots, boat surveys, WorkSafe, transport safety, PrimeSafe, propeller shaft inspection, gas certification, life raft certification, fire equipment certification, compass adjustment and certification, and boat registration.
Mr Nolle said fishermen also had to pay for fuel, equipment, insurance and loans.
“Under the current proposal, we’re talking about a 566-per-cent rise in licence fees in the western zone over the next three years,” he said.
“The government’s now saying ‘if we’re providing you with a service, you have to pay for it’ – the trouble is what they want us to pay far exceeds the service they’re delivering.”
Mr Nolle said an example of the increasing red tape was a PrimeSafe component, which required fishermen to register their vessels to handle food.
“It’s like saying to a farmer, if you’re going to transport cattle or sheep in your truck, you have to be PrimeSafe,” he said.
“It’s classic overreach, bureaucracy and a money grab.”
Mr Nolle was among the Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-operative members who made a submission to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ proposed regulatory changes.
“A generation ago, 40-50 years ago, all you needed was an access licence,” the fisherman said.
“For some of the older fishermen, it’s all just got too much and they’re giving up,” he said.
“We’re running little fishing boats here and we’ve got the same compliance obligations the Tasmanian ferry has.”
A State Government response said DEPI recognised “some fisheries will be affected more than others” with the fee increases.
“These differences are necessary to reflect that currently fisheries are paying different proportions of the cost of service provision,” the statement said.
“While recognising that cost recovery is a legitimate operating cost, the likely ability of fishers to pay large increases in levies and the negative impacts this would have in terms of industry adjustment, have been mitigated through decisions to introduce significant concessions.”
Colac Otway Shire councillor Frank Buchanan arranged a meeting with the fishermen and Red Tape Commissioner John Lloyd this month.
“He was quite sympathetic,” Mr Nolle said.
“We need any advocacy we can get that helps the government to sit down and properly consult with fisheries and understand the social and economic impact of what they’re doing – that’s what we want because we feel like we’re being ignored.”