CEO Message to industry

It’s been a busy month with plenty of additional kilometres placed on the speedo as we attended a number of meetings with coastal communities in the MidWest and Gascoyne, as well as a few in Fremantle.

It was during one of these meetings (which included representatives of the State’s shark fisheries) that one of the members had a light-hearted swipe about my regular photograph in the WAFIC Newsletters and Direct Channel podcasts, noting that George Clooney is a bit more genetically blessed than myself. So this week we’ve endeavoured to improve the image by including the complainant in the photo for this edition (as below).

Brian Scimone and Darryl Hockey at a recent meeting

Many of you will know Brian Scimone as one of WA’s very best commercial shark fishers – and a man who carries more ink than a giant cuttlefish – but importantly he’s a passionate advocate for his industry and therefore somebody I greatly respect. Importantly, he is working with WAFIC to help his industry sector reshape to meet the challenges we face in a post-COVID environment.

Access Fees
I’m regularly hearing from fishers who are currently going through a challenging time and not only have concerns over their liability from last year’s deferral of access fees, but emerging future payment requirements as well.  Some fishers have called for another round of deferrals, while others have asked for a complete waiver.

Originally DPIRD had set out a process where WAFIC would be invited to join a Working Group mid-year to assess the situation and provide advice to government for consideration and possible implementation in early 2022.  Given the current state of play, this timeline is now unsuitable.

I have recently written to DPIRD requesting that the Working Group deliberations are brought forward so concerns can be raised ASAP and sensible solutions found to provide certainty to assist fishers in their financial business planning.  We will also be raising the matter in meetings with the incoming Minister over coming weeks.

Coastal Tour
In keeping with WAFIC’s priority of getting out into the real world to meet with members, WAFIC Chair Murray Criddle, Deputy Chair Adam Radford and myself recently spent a week visiting fishing communities between Horrocks and Carnarvon.  Not only were we talking to lots of local commercial fishers, but also to Shire Presidents and CEOs, charter boat operators, recreational fishers, compliance officers – as well as random people in shops and walking along the jetties.

Needless to say it was a thoroughly rewarding tour and we certainly learned a lot and came home with a comprehensive view of what’s happening in our industry – and importantly what the rest of the community thinks of us. I guess the bottom line is that our commercial fishers are highly valued within these communities, and even the local recreational fishers are wholly supportive of our industry.

One of the key learnings from this trip was to hear the opinions of the local recreational fishing communities and their concerns around ‘weekend warriors’ who come into their towns and target the fishing stocks in industrial proportions.  It was encouraging to see the levels of respect for the commercial industry at a local level from the recreational and general community. This is critical as we urgently need to find a way to cohesively work together to ensure there is a sustainable pathway ahead for all parties.

Better seafood labelling
Meanwhile, in the build up to Easter we took the opportunity to get into the media and promote our messages.  One which attracted a lot of radio and TV attention was our call for ’State of Origin’ labelling of WA seafood in the hospitality sector.  Yes, it’s a mandatory requirement for seafood products in the retail sector to have country of origin labelling, but when it gets to the café or restaurant, or pub, or fish & chip shop then the rules don’t apply.

As such, many patrons who assume they are paying for and eating local products are in fact consuming imported fish of unknown provenance, which may well come from unsustainable – and sometimes questionable – practices. So we went hard and called for not just Country of Origin labelling at the consumer level, but also State of Origin labelling – so consumers can be confident that what they are buying is locally sourced and supplied.

There has been a demonstrated increase in demand for WA seafoods over the past year in the retail market and we think it’s a no-brainer that this should be reflected in food service as well.

Why – because ours is the best – and consumers have a right to know what they are paying for.

We got some encouraging feedback from the coverage and will be discussing how we may be able to progress local labelling with the new Minister when we meet in coming weeks.

In the meantime, we can all start the process by advocating local labelling on our own menus and chalkboards. If it’s WA product – then tell the customers so they can make the informed choice to shop local.

Best regards.