Tony Bobeldyk and sister Maria Bobeldyk, are very unhappy with the fishing reforms.
Tony Bobeldyk and sister Maria Bobeldyk, are very unhappy with the fishing reforms. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Fishers criticise ‘reforms’ that threaten financial hardship

BROTHER and sister team Maria and Tony Bobeldyk run a third-generation commercial fishing business that, like many similar businesses in the state, is under threat from proposed reforms.

Their business covers meshing, hauling, crabbing, eeling and prawning in the Richmond and Tweed Rivers.

If proposals under the Commercial Fisheries Reform Program go through unchanged, the Bobeldyks will be forced to pay a small fortune to buy back their business.

Maria Bobeldyk said she had never seen anything impact the industry like this.

"Reform probably has to happen but why should it be at the expense of the fishermen?" she said.

"For us to have to re- invest to buy back what we're already allowed to do would just create extreme hardship."

Under the current share allocation for meshing, the Bobeldyks can work about 240 days a year. Under one option of the proposed reforms, those days will be cut to 52, forcing them to buy out two fishers.

Mrs Bobeldyk said hauling faces similar difficulties - one option reduces the days from about 240 to 51 days.

It's an option that would see an end to the mullet run because there aren't enough days allocated to do the three-month season, which is currently in full swing.

She said the cost required for fishermen to buy back their business would force many out of the industry.

"I think the average age across this region is over 50 and the majority of the fishers have always thought it could be something they could hand down as a generational thing," she said.

"But how do you put food on the table when you have to start all over again."

Tony Bobeldyk, who has been a commercial fisherman since 1975, said it was a business he had hoped to pass on to his children. But if the proposed reforms go through, he may not have a business to pass on.

The Department of Primary Industries said no decisions have been made on any of the options now out for public consultation.


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