Maclean fisherman of 55 years, Alan ‘Fatty’ Ford, is calling for changes in regulations governing management and estuary opening times for Clarence River prawn trawlers.
Maclean fisherman of 55 years, Alan ‘Fatty’ Ford, is calling for changes in regulations governing management and estuary opening times for Clarence River prawn trawlers. Adam Hourigan

Fishermen call for river control

RELAXING estuary opening restrictions and locals regulating their local river system are the calls coming from a breakaway group of professional fishermen including Alan ‘Fatty’ Ford and Bruce Ellem.

Part of a faction of fishermen who distanced themselves from the Clarence River Fishermen’s Cooperative in 2006, the men said the industry should adopt an approach similar to aquaculture and harvest the catch when it is there.

Rather than stick to rules set down by the fisheries department of a 15 working day window at the start (the Monday closest to December 1) and end (Friday closest to May 31) of the season the men said it should be more flexible.

With prawns in the river between October and late May, both men said test shots would advise when the estuary could be opened for trawling.

“The idea is if the prawns are there catch them ... sitting around and going broke is not my idea of business,” Mr Ford said.

“We should harvest the product when it is there and when it isn’t we should close the river,” Mr Ellem said.

Both men said if the industry was regulated by local inspectors with an intimate knowledge of the river, rather than by fisheries officers in Sydney, all the professionals fishing the river would benefit.

“We have some good local inspectors who know the estuary and have great ideas, but keep getting overridden by people based in Sydney,” Mr Ellem said.

“Because the local inspectors are here, if they want to have a look at the river it is only five or 10 minutes and they are out there and that’s the best way to manage the river,” Mr Ford said.

Test shots being conducted in the river next Wednesday were instigated by Mr Ford approaching fisheries to open the river early.

Professional Fishermen’s Association executive officer John Harrison said if fishermen had ideas on improving the industry he would be happy to hear from them.

“There are also avenues for these issues to be discussed and that is through the management advisory committee and the local estuary prawn trawl committee,” he said.

We have some good local inspectors who know the estuary and have great ideas, but keep getting overridden by people based in Sydney


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