CEO Message to industry

Well at least this week we can stop talking about COVID and the markets for five minutes and get onto the normal topic of fishers – the weather!

Finally those wretched easterlies have taken a spell and allowed some reprieve. And while the rain doesn’t help fishing too much at least it’s provided some relief from the heat and freshened up the lawns at home.

This week is Sustainable Seafood Week and is a good reminder for us to make our friends and community aware of the efforts we all go to so that the seafood industry can continue to serve the needs of our society.  Sustainability is at the heart of the fishing industry and unless the marine estate is in the best health, and unless the breeding stocks are at their best – then we don’t have a future.

We are the guardians and custodians of the aquatic environment and we don’t pose any threat to sustainability.  That’s a really salient message that we need to keep reinforcing wherever we go, whatever we do.

I’m constantly frustrated by the misleading comments about the environmental impacts of fishing. Arguably no other industry has a clearer, more direct need for sustainability than commercial fishing. Even our once-criticised trawl fishers have a vested interest in ensuring our oceans remain healthy, and now many of them are MSC certified. The waters they fish today are exactly the same waters they will be fishing tomorrow and the day after, so we are all invested in ensuring they are sustainable. This applies to wild caught fisheries, as well as aquaculture.

The other big issue being discussed is the need for ‘Country of Origin’ labelling for our food service industry. Retail products should be clearly marked with Country of Origin labels so consumers are more informed and able to support purchases of local products, however the food service sector is lagging. In a perfect world, we should be seeing not only Country of Origin, but State of Origin identified on food service menus, so consumers can preference local products when dining. The Northern Territory has been doing it for years and consumers up there are now actively asking for local foods. Please keep pushing this issue with us, we’ve certainly got it on the government’s awareness radar.

With an election looming in coming weeks, a lot of our government-facing projects are hibernating in caretaker mode until we have clarity around a new government and any possible changes which may arise in regard to Cabinet Ministers.

However we are using this time productively and progressing other agendas, including a potential reshaping of some of WAFIC’s roles and functions. If you listened to my recent podcast (Download the link here) you would have heard that the impacts of COVID-19 have highlighted a number of known and emerging issues which we are being forced to face – particularly those relating to market development and trade. This is a complex issue that has been circling for a number of years, but is now a greater priority as our industry charts and manages its course for post-COVID recovery.

The farming community has been through it and emerged with a great foundation for us to follow, so we’ll continue to look for opportunities to bolster WAFIC’s role.

So as we watch the splash of Autumn rain on our windscreens, let’s cast our thoughts ahead as we work to make 2021 a year of recovery and growth for the commercial seafood industry.