LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I WOULD like to respond to the front page article 'Kick in the guts offer' on behalf of the Gippsland Lakes Recreational Fishing Alliance.
It should be noted that the movement to remove commercial netting of fish from Victoria's estuaries has been on going for more than 20 years.
For those who wish to blame the Victorian Labor Party for the buyouts, it is on the record that the policy to remove commercial netting in Port Phillip and Corio Bays was in fact an initiative of the LNCP before the 2014 state election. Then leader of the Liberal party Dennis Napthine announced the policy initiative at the Carrum Surf Lifesaving Club.
A similar policy was adopted a few weeks later by the then Andrews-led opposition which, when it won government, introduced the legislation for the "buy-out" in 2015.
It should be noted that the legislation was supported overwhelmingly by National Party members Peter Walsh, Danny O'Brien and Tim Bull.
There was recognition by both major political parties that there is a greater economic benefit for the resource from recreational fishing. It has nothing to do with emotive arguments or lack of respect, as some claim.
In fact if the accepted numbers of the value economically were applied to the Gippsland Lakes, the difference would be an input economically of $1.2 million from commercial netting against $35 million for recreational fishing. These figures have been accepted by both major political parties.
The formula that applies to the compensation payout for the commercial fishermen of the Gippsland Lakes will result in an average package of about $800,000.
This is made up of $371,000 for the licence, and a $60,000 allowance for the boat and fishing gear which the fishermen can choose to keep or on-sell.
The package also includes an amount of three times the value of each fisherman's average annual catch, calculated over five years before March 2017.
The average total annual catch of all species for this period was 266 tonnes. At the conservative landed value of $5 per kilogram this equates to an annual value of $133,000 by three which equals $399,000 per fisher. The catch value is related to effort and activity, so some will get more and some less.
It was refreshing that alternative views were sought in the presentation of the article. This recognises that the commercial fishermen of the Gippsland Lakes are not the only stakeholders in the Gippsland Lakes. The current Labor government had the task of recognising this and striking a reasonably balanced solution.
There are those, like in Port Phillip and Corio Bays where no amount of compensation would be enough.