Indigenous commercial fishers* (ICF) make up a small percentage of commercial fishers in NSW. They are usually small operators that;
(i) derive a personal income, and
(ii) many cases, supply some catch for local indigenous community consumption.
The NSW Indigenous Fisheries Strategy 2002 emphasized the importance of indigenous participation in the commercial fishing sector. A workshop conducted with ICF in 2003 identified obstacles to ongoing and future participation in the sector. Several issues were identified see 'A Draft Discussion Document and Action Plan. Developing the participation of Indigenous people in commercial fishing. A Report commissioned by NSW Fisheries '. One of the main issues identified was;
'The gradual and continuing decline of Aboriginal commercial fishers in the industry means loss of an accessible and appealing employment base for Aboriginal communities'.
To date little has been done to address the decline and recent communication with some ICF, particularly in far northern NSW, indicate that it is continuing. ICF indicate that ongoing changes to management approaches in NSW are making it even more difficult for them to stay now then previously.
There is an urgent need to analyse the possible impacts of new management changes (structural readjustment in NSW - see the Pyrmont Pact) on indigenous participation in commercial fisheries and to develop revised strategies that seek to maintain the existing levels and where possible increase indigenous involvement in commercial fisheries so as to address (i) and (ii) above.
*Here we are talking about indigenous participation in commercial fisheries, not cultural fisheries.