Uncertain future of Hawkesbury River fishermen


Brooklyn’s fishing industry has deep roots in the community. Many local fishermen are third generation operators, and the Brooklyn Fishermen’s Co-op is a longstanding fixture in town. While Brooklyn’s fishers have continued to supply Sydney markets with a steady supply of healthy seafood, there is a regulatory storm brewing up.

Professional fishermen in the Hawkesbury are mostly single-handed operators with one or two small boats. Many fishermen catch prawns or squid from motorised trawlers of about 10 metres length. Small “tinnies” are used to set nets and traps to catch fish and crabs. Much of the catch consists of prawns, squid and mullet, which are readily caught by the nets, but not on the lines and hooks of recreational fishermen.

The number of fishermen in NSW has declined substantially over the last 20 years, but there is no doubt that the Hawkesbury fishery is stable and sustainable. The NSW Department of Primary Industries has nevertheless released a range of changes to the licensing of professional fishermen in NSW. These will impact on all the fishing businesses in Brooklyn and the Hawkesbury, with the intention that the industry will further shrink.

Under the changes proposed in June this year, all fishermen are required to hold more industry “shares” to continue operating. The shares have to be bought from someone who exits the industry. The cost can be high and it doesn’t help the fisherman to catch any extra fish. Licences for boats and nets that fishermen were previously required to purchase have been abolished without compensation. Some operators will be restricted to working 64 days per year, while some licencees face catch quotas that will limit income to less than $10,000 per year.

Brooklyn’s fishermen are distressed by the Department’s changes. The Government recognises the significance of the proposals, and is offering a small grant for financial advice, retraining grants for those who leave, and grants to help co-operatives plan for a precarious future. The fishermen were due to meet with our State Member, Matt Kean to discuss their concerns.

So what can we do to help our local fishing industry? We can eat local produce –

around 85% of the seafood consumed in NSW is imported! You can contact your local representative to discuss your concerns. And don’t forget to come down to Brooklyn for some fish and chips or to buy your own fish and prawns to cook at home from the Brooklyn Fisherman’s Coop.

Dave Brown is a long-time Brooklyn resident and owner of Brown’s Boatshed at Brooklyn


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