28 Mar 2012 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries on the subject of fisheries poaching.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Earlier this year, two men were convicted of poaching almost half a tonne of abalone from the West Coast. While we are all pleased to see justice being done, the issue of abalone poaching is an ongoing blight on an industry worth some $100 million each year to the state. I have received representations from Kangaroo Island in relation to a noticeable drop in the presence of PIRSA officials policing that area, as well as some increased signs of poaching, such as fresh scrape marks on rocks and so forth. My questions to the minister are:

1. Given that licence fees increased by 37 per cent in some zones last season, does PIRSA have any new measures to prevent illegal fishing, or is the government relying on court cases such as this to deter would-be poachers?

2. How many authorised officers are directly employed to police our fishing zones compared to the previous year?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women) (14:35): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. Indeed, the successful prosecution recently of poachers is evidence of our wonderful PIRSA officers and inspectors doing their job. They do it extremely well, and I certainly commend them. They are a team of extremely dedicated and hardworking people who often have a difficult job to do in sometimes very challenging circumstances. Again, the honourable member brings to our attention the fabulous and successful efforts of these important officers.

PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture employs, I am advised, 43 Fisheries officers stationed in both metropolitan and regional areas across the state. The compliance group undertakes programmed compliance activities to educate fishers, deter opportunistic and financially motivated fishery-related crime, and also to enforce Fisheries and Aquaculture rules and regulations.

In support of the education and awareness programs, PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture employs two volunteer coordinators who manage about 100 volunteers to deliver the Fishcare volunteer program, which is mainly targeted at recreational fishing across the state. The volunteers commit in excess of 6,000 hours to provide information to over 24,000 fishers annually. I have spoken highly of the Fishcare volunteer group before in this place and I commend them for their wonderful efforts.

Fisheries officers conduct regular land and sea patrols utilising a range of vehicles and vessels, including the state-of-the-art 24-metre offshore patrol vessel FPV Southern Ranger. The delivery of Fisheries and Aquaculture compliance is programmed through a range of dedicated fishery-specific compliance plans for both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. I am advised that 40 uniformed Fisheries officers are stationed at 10 locations across the state and three investigators are also based around the regions.

Officers are supported by the Intelligence and Strategic Support Unit, which collates information and formulates targeted compliance activities to address the risks and issues identified in each fishery and aquaculture sector. Fisheries officers conduct programmed compliance activities, both on land and at sea, utilising vessels from 5.4 metres to 8.5 metres, so it gives them significant capacity. PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture also operates the state-of-the-art 24-metre offshore patrol vessel, FPV Southern Ranger, which has the capability to patrol from border to the border and, I am advised, out to 200 nautical miles. Dedicated fishery compliance plans for both recreational and commercial fisheries are developed to ensure the delivery of compliance activities in each fishery's risk base is intelligence driven and delivers cost-effective outcomes. These compliance plans include the three core strategies of education and awareness, effective deterrence and appropriate enforcement, and are directed at increasing voluntary compliance and maximising effective deterrence.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:39): I have a supplementary question: were there any new measures as a result of the increase in licence fees?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women) (14:39): As I have outlined, we have a very significant program in operation with a significant number of officers and utilities, and we continue with those efforts.