CEO Message – A critical point has been reached

This year will be one of the most significant faced by WAFIC for decades, as a point of inflexion has been reached and the industry’s economy of scale is now under serious challenge.

In some ways this has occurred through incremental encroachment from other interests, such as recreational fishing and seismic surveying of the oil and gas industry.  We are also facing challenges from Marine Parks, excluding commercial fishing from certain areas in Ngari Capes, or the extension northwards of the Marmion Marine Park, or decisions in the Buccaneer Marine Park in the Kimberleys (which has potentially halved the barramundi fishery) and now the potential impacts of the newly proposed marine park which looks to cover 1000 kilometres of the south coast.

And on top of all this we have seen decisions by environmental authorities to allow dredge spoils to be dumped in valuable prawn and scallop grounds inside World Heritage-listed Shark Bay, and approval for other activities such as new coastal salt projects which will have a detrimental impact upon key fish breeding and nursery areas.

Then we see new aquaculture developments being approved in Albany which will directly displace commercial fishermen from areas they have been operating in for the past 150 years.

Meanwhile, our iconic west coast demersal sector is currently under direct challenge. Commercial fishers have stayed well below the agreed sustainability targets for the past decade while the recreational sector has gone way over the top, yet some players are now advocating that the solution is to strip more allocation away from the commercial sector.

Throw into the mix the general economic and regulatory circumstances and the associated costs of doing business – along with the increasing risk management disciplines of bank lenders – and we can clearly see that our industry as a whole is facing a situation where the walls of the room are always shifting inwards.

Day-by-day, decision-by-decision, we are losing the ability to operate and in doing so the WA community is losing access to their prized local resource.  From a food security perspective, we already have 70 percent of local consumption being serviced by overseas markets and if the current trend continues this percentage will climb significantly over the next year or two.

The decisions by government to continually push aside the interests of commercial fishing, particularly with marine parks, will directly impact upon the food security of the State. And by the time the community recognises this, it may well be too late.  However, WAFIC recognises the enormity of the challenge our industry, and community, now faces.

We have now launched a “Commercial Fishing Matters!” campaign to draw community support for our industry.  Over coming months you will see a significant amount of newspaper and radio media in this regard, as well as a flow of social media that we would like you to pick up and share as widely as possible.  This is an opportunity for our entire industry to consolidate and work in unison to draw out the active support of the community.

Unless we can arrest the current direction of public policy, one which continually subordinates commercial fishing to a lesser value than everything else, then our community will irreversibly lose access to fresh local seafood and become 80-90 percent reliant on northern hemisphere imports.

We need your support.

Best wishes,