Economic Analysis & Social and Economic monitoring following the NSW Commercial Fisheries Business Adjustment Program

NSW Department of Primary Industries
Publication Type:
2020, pp. 1-102
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During the twentieth century commercial fisheries in NSW had been managed to facilitate jobs and supply of seafood for local and overseas markets. Historically too many licenses had been issued and by the 1990s fisheries management shifted towards preventing overfishing, and a reform of NSW fisheries was commenced through the adoption of share managed fisheries in the Fisheries Management Act (1994). Rock lobster and Abalone fisheries became regulated by catch quotas and shares were in place by 2000, but other share management fisheries did not have catch quotas or equivalent effort restrictions put in place. By the 2000s economic conditions had declined for NSW commercial fisheries, for a mixture of commercial reasons, such as high production costs, and regulatory reasons, including the closure of fishing grounds for recreational fishing havens and marine protected areas. Business certainty was also undermined by the existence of fishing rights that were not often used, but if they were to be used may have resulted in overfishing. Reviews of fisheries management called for improving the economics and sustainability of the Industry through having more direct linkages between shares and limits on catches or effort. After coming to government in 2011 the Liberal National Party Government announced their intention to reform NSW commercial fisheries. This involved moving from the existing system with various forms of regulation on the input side, towards output controls (individual transferable quotas (ITQs), in the form of annual kilogram catch limits) for the fisheries where this was possible, and tighter input controls (individual transferable effort (ITEs), in the form of annual fishing days limits) for multispecies fisheries where output controls were not feasible. This reform came to be known as the Business Adjustment Program (BAP). It was a reform that had been inevitable since the early 2000s, given the NSW Government’s commitment to share management embodied in the 1994 Act. It was extremely complex given the nature and the scale of the fisheries involved and the multi-operational patterns of fishers in commercial businesses. This not only posed an issue for government and industry, but also for the team in assessing the many elements of history, equity and other factors in this highly complex adjustment program. In some ways it is too early and simple to say whether the BAP ‘worked’, as the BAP has raised many issues of equity and process that have been contentious and raised important issues in fisheries and their governance. As is usual with fishery allocations, there are people who are aggrieved for various reasons.
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