The long-awaited reform of the marine scalefish fishery has passed another milestone today with the finalisation of fisher's exceptional circumstances applications with 56 licence holders recognised.
The news this process has been finalised offering commercial fishers clarity is particularly pleasing after I questioned the delays in the exceptional circumstances applications in House of Assembly Question Time on 17 March.
The many local commercial fishers I have been working with over the past two years now have the updated quota information they need and clarity re what to expect on 1 July when new reforms take effect -- essential in order for them to move forward with business decisions.
The Marshall Liberal Government is supporting the State's commercial marine scalefish fishers with a $24.5 million reform designed to strengthen the long-term financial and ecological sustainability of the industry.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said when announcing the finalisation of the fisher's exceptional circumstances that the toughest challenge of the reform is the allocation of individual quotas to each licence holder.
"From 1 July the marine scalefish fishery will transition from 'nanny state' regulation of how and when commercial fishers can ply their trade to a modern output-based fishery with annual catch limits set to safeguard the sustainability of fish species for future years", Minister Basham said.
An expert Independent Allocation Advisory Panel was established last year to provide recommendations on the allocation of quota to fishers and all licence holders were provided their indicative quota allocations last November, based on their individual catch history between 2010 and 2016.
Fishers were given the opportunity to seek consideration of exceptional circumstances and 90 fishers took advantage of that process.
Respected former magistrate Dr Andrew Cannon AM was appointed as Independent Adviser to consider exceptional circumstances applications and he met with all fishers who requested the opportunity. Dr Cannon provided individual reports on his assessment of each case to the Government.
After this process 56 licence holders are eligible for exceptional circumstances consideration. Remedies for exceptional circumstances range from the allocation of additional quota to a second chance to participate in the voluntary license surrender program.
Minister Basham said each case had been different and was assessed on individual merit.
In general terms, extra quota will be offered to fishers who purchased licences mid-way through the reform reference period and to those younger fishers who had fished as a member of the family business and then took over the business and licence during the reference period.
"The exceptional circumstances process will have little impact on the indicative quotas provided to fishers in November 2020 meaning those people can now have confidence they have all the information they need to make decisions about the future of their business", Minister Basham said.
"Any additional quota offered through the exceptional circumstances process will be sourced from the catch history of licences surrended to the Government.
"Out of the 130 marine scalefish licence holders who applied to voluntarily surrender their licence, so far 72 have actually completed the process.
"Fishers who had applied for both the voluntary licence surrender and the exceptional circumstances process have three weeks from when they receive the outcome of their exceptional circumstances application to decide whether they stay in the industry or exit".
All licence surrenders will be completed by 31 May 2021 and the new fishing rules will apply from 1 July 2021.