Crossing the ditch to talk fish


An eclectic group of Government officials and fishers from New Zealand’s commercial, recreational and indigenous sectors and three representatives from the US-based Environmental Defense Fund visited WAFIC’s offices recently.

WAFIC CEO John Harrison said that what ensued was an invigorating and wide-ranging discussion that enabled people from both sides of the ditch and the USA to share their experiences and insights on working in the seafood industry.

“There was an extensive range of topics covered over the course of the meeting,” John said.

“WAFIC Board director Bruce Cockman gave the delegates an informed perspective of the challenge of resource sharing between the professional and recreational sectors.

“Bruce was quick to assert that he was all for resource sharing between the sectors but that the devil was in the detail.”

Mandurah fisher Damien Bell shared his experience of helping to achieve a world-first – Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for a joint commercial-recreational fishery (Mandurah Blue Swimmer Crab).

On the issue of MSC certification, John said that the delegation was left in no doubt that Western Australia punched well above its weight.

“Our rock lobster fishery was the first in the world to achieve MSC certification,” he said. “As already stated, WA has the world’s first joint commercial-recreational fishery with MSC certification.

“When our pearling sector gains MSC certification (which is imminent), that will also be a world first.

“Every single one of WA’s 50+ commercial fisheries have gone through MSC pre-assessment and currently more than 90 per cent of our commercial fisheries by value are MSC certified.”

Other topics covered during the meeting included the need for more research into the survivability of releasing fish caught in deep water – barotrauma – and how best to regulate an industry in the face of increased competition to access to the marine environment by other industries such as the oil and gas sector, tourism, charter boats and environmental groups.