Overview of 2017 WAFIC Open Industry Forum 

WAFIC CEO, John Harrison, gave an overview on what WAFIC may look like by 2022.WAFIC’s vision for the 2017 Open Industry Forum was to provide stakeholders of WA’s commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture industries an opportunity where they could express their views on contemporary issues facing industry and discuss issues with WAFIC staff and the Board that are causing them concern.

WAFIC thanks the attendees for their time and effort to attend the event, noting that many travelled significant distances.

WAFIC will distribute a summary document to attendees of the event and other interested parties when finalised, to generate further discussion and improve opportunities for collaboration.

Setting the Scene

Run by facilitator Maree Gooch of Belay Consulting, former Chair Clayton Nelson began the day by welcoming all meeting participants and invited all attendees to participate to ensure future priorities and critical issues facing the industry are achieved.

Mr Nelson commented that rapid advancement of technology was a key theme throughout the 3 days of the 2017 Seafood Directions and noted that ultimately it will be up to industry to commit to the use of new technology to move forward.

“With rapid advancements in technology, we as an industry need to be ready – be sharp to move forward. The future is in our hands, and it started 12 months ago,” he said.

Mr Nelson concluded that for the industry to achieve a forward vision for the future, clear priorities need to be established.  Using the example of the newly appointed Southern Seafood Producers WA Association (SSPWA), positivity and constructiveness will be two crucial components of success.

Ms Gooch, addressed the crowd by congratulating them for being there, wanting to embrace change. “I can see visionaries in the room, and visionaries within the industry”, she said before going into the formalities and introducing the next speaker, WAFIC Chief Executive Officer, John Harrison.

Mr Harrison gave a scenario of possibilities for the future of the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), commenting that the establishment of the industry ‘today’, has been very much been an evolutionary process.  A change of name from “Fishing Industry Council’ to something like ‘Seafood West’ may assist in repositioning out industry in the public eye.

He noted the number of sector bodies including the newly developed SSPWA – a 3-year investment committed by WAFIC, and made it clear that within 5 years, the constitution will need to be revamped. “The constitution will be shaped by oil and gas expansion, health and safety matters, science and social media, where we would need to be creative with the truth to ensure that mistruths are debunked”, he said.

Mr Harrison addressed what WAFIC could look like as an entity in the future and displayed the potential structure of the organisation. He concluded by saying that WAFIC could potentially take the direction of being an Association of Associations but would require a constitution and name that was to reflect that.

Critical Issues Addressed

Ms Gooch faced the crowd of 65 and started the facilitated conversation by asking about the challenges and trends that they face in their roles, organisations and that the fishing industry face at a local, state, national and global level.


A common theme through the conversation was the lack of inclusion of the younger generation – not only as leaders but for succession planning for the future.

Other challenges of industry that were addressed included the lack of certainty (including government changes, legislation and quota systems), cost to get into the industry, time to complete everything, imported products, succession planning, environmental changes and Biosecurity.


Key trends included increasing consumer awareness and how consumers want to know the ‘story’ of seafood and the industry, increase in tourists/tourism, increase in brand awareness of clean and green image of Australian seafood, red tape, compliance, legislative changes, quotas and limited human resources to get the job done.

WAFIC World Café

The second part of the session invited industry participants to join a “World Café” discussion which saw attendees divided into six groups and, in rotation, were asked three questions designed to foster open conversation and discussion on challenges and opportunities in the fishing industry.

After detailed discussions, there were several key themes which emerged from the group and included:

  • WAFIC to remain self-funded and independent from government;
  • Leadership is required by industry at all levels;
  • Fishing industry members are “Producers of Fine Food” – the Image, Profitability and Sustainability of the industry and the produce is very important;
  • Branding is very important – includes labelling of local product of the whole industry to improve public perception, value and acceptance;
  • Improved resourcing within industry – includes all kinds – human resources, funding/ revenue streams;
  • Communication, building relationships and regular networking across and within all sectors and regions is vital – including the fishing industry plus partnerships and alliances with others such as food and wine;
  • Partner with government versus command and control to ensure certainty and security of the industry;
  • Government agencies must be educated on the effect of their legislation, actions and delivery style as this has a significant impact on mental health; and
  • Look at other industries for direction on what to do regarding Safety, Health and Wellbeing and develop industry standards for inductions, roles and responsibilities.

The Next Steps

WAFIC believes that there is more work to be done to ensure a prosperous and vibrant future for the Western Australian Fishing Industry. The Board and staff will be using this information to respond to industry needs, develop strategic direction and to influence policy and planning across industry and government and at a Ministerial level.

Click to view Powerpoint on what WAFIC will look like by 2022