CEO Message – 2024 is the tipping point to determine WA’s long term seafood security

As we enter the new year, it’s clear there are many existential challenges at play, none more than the risks to the future of the fishing industry and our ability to maintain supply of fresh seafood to the WA community.

It’s abundantly obvious that overseas eco-warriors have infiltrated the government’s conservation agency to manipulate the higher policy settings of government. This is openly visible when you look at the way the marine park planning has unravelled with the absence of scientific rationale.

It is additionally disturbing when the views of locals are being ignored, socio-economic effects are not properly addressed and the cumulative impacts upon seafood supply are not even a distant consideration.  It’s sad to see the procedural disarray which has prevailed over recent times.

Concerningly, this is many degrees worse than the awful mess previously created in the Ngari Capes and Kimberley marine parks, which prompted government to formally apologise to us for what happened, and solemnly promise to introduce a new approach, which was fair and transparent and guided by evidence-based science.  Instead, those promises were openly broken, and we soon saw another badly corrupted process unravel, with carefully planned manipulation by devout eco-ideologues who have been freely allowed to pull the strings of the environmental and science sector advisory groups.

Malicious outcomes will always prevail in this society when good people stand idly by and do nothing, so WAFIC has no choice but to stand up and defend these targeted strikes on our existence.

To be clear, we would prefer not to, but we have exhausted every effort to seek a fair outcome through the normal channels.  Commitments have been repeatedly broken, local inputs shut down, core issues remain unaddressed, and from the very start, the process has carried the hallmarks of a predetermined outcome.

In a few weeks’ time we will see the draft plans released by government for public consultation and in many ways this will be a statement of broader future intent from government, because the maps will have been approved for circulation by three Cabinet Ministers.

Anything more than 10.7 per cent of the marine park proposed to be permanently locked away in sanctuary zones will be devastating for the structure of the affected fisheries and a sign that we are considered disposable, and that local seafood supply doesn’t matter.  So, we trust that over recent times government has instead introduced some overdue sense to the draft plans by reducing the planned impacts to a manageable level.

It was interesting to see Premier Cook last week glowing about WA fish and chips on his social media feeds, with hundreds of locals jumping in to share their support for the industry and their love of local seafood. Well, as much as you love local seafood, you can kiss it goodbye if the government locks it up in marine sanctuaries. It’s a no-brainer. No access to local  fish equals no local fish and chips.

Meanwhile, over the coming year we have many other marine impacts heading our way with developments such as offshore windfarms, seismic surveys and industrial solar salt projects.

Currently these are all individually assessed and approved as standalone projects, so the emerging challenge for government is how to gauge and manage the cumulative effects of these projects, to act strategically to ensure seafood security can be maintained in WA.

The fishing industry will not stand in the way of the economic development of this great state of ours. All we have ever sought is a sensible balanced outcome, which can only be determined by government through genuine engagement with key stakeholders from the earliest opportunity.  We continue to seek a seat at the table and genuine, transparent engagement.

Speaking to retail seafood outlets over the past month or so, the message we have received is that energetic festive season consumer demand for fresh local seafood has never been higher.  We received similar feedback following Easter last year. Demand was even higher through the COVID period.

This surge has been occurring at the very same time that the ability to maintain consistent seafood supply is increasingly under significant pressure, through a range of factors.  The time has now come for government to work closely with industry to sit down and help to secure WA seafood security for the long term.

In this regard, the introduction of some constructive policy interventions over the coming year will be critical.

Darryl Hockey
Chief Executive Officer
WAFIC