Our wild fish stocks are a limited, but renewable resource. Most WA fisheries rely on relatively high value species, and concentrate on increasing the quality and value of the harvest rather than the volume.
WAFIC recognises that commercial fishers pay a licence fee to access a particular marine resource and pay for the right to own quota units of a particular species. These fees are often substantial as they support management, compliance, and research in that fishery.
But WAFIC supports the licencing process as an important part of industry funding the process that ensures the longevity of the State’s fishing resources.
We take the strong position that sustainable fishing is achievable through good management based on sound science.
Sustainable fishing is a fundamental value and no one – professional or recreational – consciously sets out to fish a fishery to extinction. But it can, and has happened.
Through WAFIC, and other peak sector bodies, Western Australia’s commercial fishing industry works in close co-operation with the Department of Fisheries to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries.
The tight management controls include limits on the numbers of licences, gear restrictions, seasonal closures and limits on fishing time or quota systems which control the total quantity of fish that can be harvested by professional fishermen. Other measures can include permanent closed areas to protect juvenile or breeding fish or to protect important habitats.
All Western Australian fisheries that wish to export must demonstrate to the Commonwealth Government via ecological sustainability reports to Environment Australia that the fishery is managed for ecological sustainability.
Traditionally, the fisheries debate has been conducted between Government and the professional and recreational sectors. In recent times, the seafood consumer has entered the debate; for health reasons the seafood buying public wants to buy more seafood and wants to know the seafood they are eating is sustainable.
How do you work out what share of the seafood resource goes to the professional fishing industry that catches for the seafood-buying public and what share goes to the recreational fisher who catches for his or her family and friends?
The Government has established a framework called Integrated Fisheries Management (IFM), which allocates shares of each fishery.
IFM is an innovative framework that was developed to address the growing competition for fish resources between commercial, recreational and indigenous fishers.
To explain IFM in simple terms, imagine a fishery and its stock of fish as a fish pie. A pie that is to be divided four ways with not all slices of equal size.
The first and most important slice of the fish pie – belongs to the cook, it represents the fish – this is the breeding stock on which the survival of the fishery relies – so it stays on the plate, or in the water, and is not caught or shared.
The rest of the pie can be divided between the professional fishermen who catch for the community and export income and the recreational and customary fishers who catch fish to feed family and friends.
Scientists decide the size of the pie – the estimate of the total catch. The size of each of these slices (the share) is the subject of mediation between all sectors, with the final decision down to the Minister of Fisheries.
For IFM process to work well it needs to have all stakeholders involved and that includes seafood consumers.
To learn more about IFM, visit the DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES.
Are there any independent checks on how our fisheries are managed?
The Department of Fisheries reports on the status of each fishery under the Ecological Sustainable Development guidelines which has allowed all of the State’s significant commercial fisheries to undergo independent assessment and achieve environmental certification under the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
How does a seafood consumer know that the seafood he or she is buying is sustainable?
Seafood consumers want to be assured that the seafood they buy is fished sustainably. Australian fisheries are subject to rigorous management controls to ensure that they are fished sustainably. Internationally, eco-labelling has been developed to tell consumers the food they are buying is sustainable. The most internationally recognised fishing eco labelling organisation is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
In 2012, WAFIC partnered with the State Government and the MSC in a $14.5million project to help all of the State’s commercial fisheries undergo independent third-party assessment with a view to achieving MSC certification.
A fishery that obtains MSC accreditation has met the world’s leading benchmark for sustainable management and provides consumers with certainty and assurance that the products they buy are sourced, harvested and processed to the highest possible standards of environmental sustainability.
Visit WAMSC to find out more.