$500,000 in grants to keep charters sailing

Friday 22 November 2019

A $500,000 grant program from the Regional Growth Fund has been opened today to support charter boat operators impacted by the snapper restrictions that will be in place until 2023.

The Charter Boat Diversification Program is set to expand and strengthen the charter boat sector by providing co-investment in projects that enhance the tourism experience offered by charter boat operators.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the initiative will deliver $25,000 matched grants to incentivise charter boat businesses to diversify their market offer.

"The charter boat sector has been in decline for the past decade and there is a real need to support the industry to refocus its effort on capturing a new market segment and growing the opportunities for nature-based tourism here in South Australia," said Minister Whetstone.

"Charter boat licences have fallen from 108 down to just 58 active licences and client numbers have slumped by 26 per cent from 19,500 people in 2005-06 down to 14,382 clients in 2017-18.

"The Marshall Liberal Government wants to work with the charter boat sector to transform a decade of decline under Labor into a new period of growth over the coming years. Any successful fishing enterprise can only grow if there are sustainable fish stocks to catch which is why it was absolutely necessary to put in place restrictions to help depleted snapper populations recover.

"There are plenty of fish in the sea able to provide a fantastic fishing experience, but some charter boat operators will be impacted by the decision to close the snapper fishery for three years in Gulf St Vincent, Spencer Gulf and the West Coast.

"Snapper is the second most important target species for charter boat operators, representing 16.4 per cent of all fish caught, coming in behind King George Whiting which are 42.7 per cent of all fish caught by charter boat clients.

"Annual snapper catches have declined by 62 per cent across the charter boat industry as stocks have fallen, from 34,450 snapper caught in 2007-8 down to 13,127 fish in 2017-18.

"To see future growth in this sector, operators need to diversify the experiences they offer. South Australia's coasts are a natural asset and envied worldwide. There's an opportunity to expand tourism options for domestic and international visitors, and encourage fishers to catch other species in our waters.

"With Snapper restrictions in place for three years, operators need to focus on improving or expanding other areas of their business, and the Charter Boat Diversification Program can inject funding to help make this happen.

'The Charter Boat Diversification grants program will boost opportunities for the operators and support South Australia's reputation as a fantastic fishing and nature destination."

Applicants can seek grants from $2,000 up to $25,000 for the following types of projects:

  • Improvements to boat amenities (e.g. fridge, catering equipment, seating)
  • Improvements in boat accessibility (e.g. disability, elderly)
  • Marketing, promotions and booking management systems
  • To purchase equipment that will deliver new customer experiences
  • Upgrade of boat survey and associated boat alterations
  • Boat alterations to support tag-and-release science work
  • Boat alterations to support new customer experiences
  • Business strategies to plan for diversification

Applications to the Charter Boat Diversification Program are limited to active charter licence holders, and a minimum 50:50 project funding contribution is required. For more information visit

South Australian Charter Boat Industry Facts

  • 58 active charter boat licences
  • $13.8 million contribution to Gross State Product in 2017-18
  • 14,382 clients in 2017-18 (down 26.4% from 19,540 clients in 2005-06)
  • Only 12.3 per cent of active charter boat operators average at least two trips per week
  • One in four active charter boat operators average less than one trip per month
  • 72.3% of clients are from South Australia, 14.8% from Victoria, 9.2% from NSW
  • 6 per cent of clients are overseas visitors
  • 63 per cent of trips comprised ecotourism activities in 2017-18
  • King George Whiting is the most caught fish (42.7%), followed by snapper (16.4%), Bight Redfish (13.3%) and Silver Trevally (3.8%)
  • 13,127 snapper caught in 2017-18 (39.8 tonne) (down 62% from 34,450 in 2007-08)
  • 5,229 charter clients targeting snapper in 2017-18 (down from 13,148 in 2009-10)
  • 75 species of fish, shark, mollusc and cephalopods caught in South Australian waters by charter boat clients

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