General News — 21 February 2014
NSW commercial fishers suffer in silence

New South Wales commercial fishermen say uncertainty around a State Government review is causing anxiety and depression.

Active fishermen may have to buy licences from those who are inactive, which they say would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and put many out of business.

Industry representative and Sydney commercial fisherman, Paul Sullivan, says the reforms have been going for over three years without a deadline and is affecting his mental health.

“I must admit I went through a pretty dark period there in the beginning not knowing,” he said.

“To stay at my current level and viable I would have to buy up 280 shares. The cost of those shares would be roughly around $200,000.bigstock-Mental-Health-Warning--32532146

“I’d lose the house and the boat and the stress it would put on the family unit … I hate to think what else would happen.”

The fisherman says that mental wealth problems are widespread throughout the industry, but a lot of the fishers suffer in silence.

“A lot of fishermen won’t divulge that sort of stuff because they’re so proud and they don’t want to say that they’re struggling with this, but it is definitely happening, 100 per cent,” Mr Sullivan said.

However, the Department of Primary Industries say that no decisions have been made and a thorough industry consultation process is underway.

The DPI’s director of commercial fisheries, Andrew Gaulstone, says officials are aware of angst in the industry, but the reforms are necessary for the long-term viability of the fishery.

“Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable while we’re going through this consultation process. We don’t want to jump in and makes decisions without going through the proper consultation process with the industry,” he said.

“Ultimately, what the government wants to deliver out of this program is a more viable industry, where people have stronger more secure rights and access and that their shares actually have some meaning and value, which was what the original intention was of share management.”

On the issue of the mental health of fishers in the industry, Mr Gaulstone says that the DPI has provided the details of free rural financial counselling services and other free mental health helpline services in newsletters to the industry.

This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 20 February 2014.

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