The NSW government is considering whether to suspend the licences issued in the state to fishing vessels and vessels operating in interstate waters, which would mean it could no longer enforce fish licensing laws.
The NSW Fisheries Minister, Scott Emerson, said on Wednesday that the move could be implemented in 2019 if the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (Licensing and Enforcement) Bill was passed into law.
The Bill passed the state Parliament last month.
“The NSW government believes that the best way to prevent the introduction of a repeat of the issue in 2019 is to suspend any licences issued to vessels and fishing vessels operating offshore in interstate NSW,” Mr Emerson said.
“That will not apply to vessels that are fishing in waters within the state.”
The suspension of fishing licences could be imposed for a maximum of three years, with a further six months suspended for any subsequent breaches.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said that the suspensions will be based on the number of violations, the number and frequency of such violations, and the amount of money involved.
The Minister said that his department is currently considering whether any further sanctions are needed.
“We will have a comprehensive review into the matter, with an assessment of the costs and benefits,” Mr Emmerson said.
Fishing licences suspended NSW licences issued last year to fishing vessel operators and boats operating in state waters will be suspended until 2026.
The department said that this would not apply for the number or frequency of violations.
The suspension will be imposed on vessels that had not registered with the department and the number, frequency and amount of violations would depend on the severity of the violation.
The total suspension will not be enforced.
The minister said that enforcement of the suspension will remain “in place”.
However, the department said it was not recommending that the suspension be extended.
“Further action may be required to ensure that this situation is not repeated,” Mr Harvey said.
The issue of fishing licence suspensions was raised during the State Parliament this month when NSW Labor MP for Wairarapa, Sam Newman, asked the Department of Fair Trading if it would consider suspending licences in the event of the proposed State Government changes.
“I’ve been asking this question and I’ve been told there’s no reason to do it,” Mr Newman said.
Mr Harvey told the ABC’s AM program on Wednesday the Department was not considering suspending licences.
“At this stage we don’t have the advice on whether or not we should,” he said.
Minister Scott Emerson said the Government is considering “several different approaches” to how to manage the issue of suspending licences for vessels operating outside NSW waters.
“There will be a review of the situation,” he told the program.
“It will be taken up at the end of the year, and then it’ll be discussed again at the beginning of 2019.”
The move to suspend licences would also mean that the fishing industry would not be able to access a range of services that have been provided by the department, including the ability to apply for permits to fish in NSW waters, he said, adding that it would also result in more people losing their fishing licences.
The Fisheries Minister said the department would also consider “the implications of suspending or suspending licences” on the fishery’s ability to attract businesses to the area.
The fishing industry has been in an ongoing legal battle with the Department over whether licences were being revoked.
The Fisheries Department had argued that it was in breach of the Fisheries Act to revoke licences for the vessel operators who are not licensed and have been convicted of a serious offence.
The court case had been heard in April this year.