CEO Message to Industry

As we approach the latter stages of 2021, it’s obviously a time when we talk about AGMs (ours is Friday 26 November in Fremantle), industry structures and longer term funding arrangements.

The rolling three-year funding model for WAFIC, which is based on GVP revenues, is obviously very much dependent upon the health of the western rock lobster industry which generates 70% of the State’s fishing industry returns.  It’s no secret that western rock lobster has taken a significant hit from its export markets – and this directly flows onto the management of WAFIC and our ability to support sector bodies.  The Minister has commissioned an independent review and the outcomes should be known in coming weeks.  In many ways these results will determine the shape of fishing industry representation over the coming four years.

And this comes at a time when our industry continues to face unprecedented challenges.  The ongoing funding cuts to DPIRD have also really impacted the ability of the agency to deliver its minimal core services.  There is currently an internal review underway to huddle available DPIRD resources around their five highest priority areas, but this in turn means that there is literally just a handful of people left to manage more than thirty important fishing sectors and projects.  We haven’t yet seen the detail but it’s clear that a large number of DPIRD services will be impacted and WAFIC may well need to step forward to try to bridge the gaps.

So, we have a situation where WAFIC is facing real challenges in fulfilling its core representative role at the very same time that DPIRD is shifting its limited resources away from important fisheries.

Meanwhile there are a myriad of important issues facing our industry across the State.  The outcomes of the Buccaneer Marine Park consultation process are now effectively finalised and these are a disappointment, not only to commercial fishing but the ability of WA consumers and tourists to source local fresh fish.  It is critically important that government learns from these fundamental mistakes and ensures that key changes are made to the processes being driven for the South Coast Marine Park.

We will soon see the release of the long overdue stock assessment for the troubled west coast demersal fishery, one which has been seriously over-exploited by recreational fishers since the start of the recovery strategy agreed and committed to by key stakeholders ten years ago.  For example, recreational snapper catches have exceeded the sustainability limits each and every year, and for the past five years the catches of indicator species (dhufish and baldchin groper) have surged dangerously.

If it were not for the fact that the commercial sector has stayed significantly below the benchmark limits that the fishery may well have collapsed altogether.  It’s abundantly clear that a government response is long overdue and unless some decisive responsible action is taken, an important community resource will be threatened.  I’d encourage everybody in our community to follow this issue closely as it unfolds over the coming six months.

Darryl Hockey