In the lead up to the March 2011 State election, the NSW Liberals and Nationals Fisheries Policy Statement, "Securing Sustainable, Viable and Healthy Fisheries", stated that their policy was "to ensure we have a strong and viable commercial fishing industry". Following on from this commitment, in March 2012 a review team, commissioned by the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, issued a major report: Independent Review of NSW Commercial Fisheries Policy, Management and Administration.
Responding to the review, in a Media Release from 14 November 2012 the Minister for Primary Industries said the Commercial Fisheries Reform Program will ensure the industry has long-term viability and sustainability of the State’s fisheries resources. According to Ms Hodgkinson:
"A lack of investment, ageing commercial fishing fleets, too many fishers through poorly allocated fishing rights, and excessive red tape has stifled the industry...With 85 per cent of seafood sold in NSW being imported, these new changes are needed to ensure that there is a continued availability of fresh, local seafood."
The same source set out the proposed key reforms as follows:
- linking shares in each fishery to either catch or fishing effort, meeting the original intention of share management as outlined when the former NSW Liberals & Nationals Government enacted the Fisheries Management Act in 1994;
- restoring confidence in decision-making processes through the establishment of a Ministerial Fisheries Advisory Council (MFAC), Peak Industry Body, and other improved consultative arrangements;
- an initial fee increase from July 2013, moving towards fees based on resource access;
- providing a way for some fishers to exit the industry and others to set-up their businesses for the future through the allocation of a $16 million structural adjustment package; and
- removing unnecessary fishing controls and improving the general management of fisheries resources in NSW, which has hindered efficiency for far too long.
This Research Service publication seeks to set out the background to the 2012 independent review and its key findings. The review itself focuses on commercial, not recreational fishing. The same applies in respect to the present paper.
In 1997 the NSW Parliament's Research Service published a briefing paper entitled Commercial Fishing in NSW: Origins and Development to the early 1990s, the purpose of which was to examine the NSW commercial fishing industry as it had developed during the twentieth century. There followed in 2004 a further briefing paper entitled NSW Fishing Industry: Changes and Challenges in the Twenty-First Century, the aim of which was primarily to look at the progress of the administrative changes introduced by the Fahey Government through its Fisheries Management Act 1994.