CEO Message to industry

Well the last few weeks have been really full-on, the cyclone was a really nasty threat but fortunately the impacts on fishers were minimal compared to what it could have been.  It’s a great tribute to the guys at Kalbarri who were on their boats inside the harbour in atrocious conditions as they continually adjusted their wheel and ropes to cope with the onslaught.  There was some medium damage but at least nobody got injured.

And not far south, our Chairman Murray Criddle was locked down in Horrocks when the eye of the cyclone passed over.  The town was really fortunate as the wind was coming from the protected side, but just a few kilometres away in Northampton the damage was enormous.  Murray took a leading role in the community thereafter, coordinating assistance and making sure that people were looked after, including a trip to Port Gregory to ensure their needs were being met.

Speaking of challenges, clearly one of my main concerns is the ongoing impacts of COVID and China on certain parts of our industry.  In some export-exposed sectors, particularly for people carrying debt, there are a lot of concerns being expressed about the situation.

You can be assured that I’m seeing this and hearing this and know there are some particularly challenging times ahead.  I have made a number of direct representations at Ministerial level in Canberra trying to get them to appreciate the nature of the challenges we face and the need for some safety net or adjustment support for affected fishers.

To be frank, it’s been a struggle as there is simply not enough unity within our industry to secure the outcomes we need – not within the state and not between the states.  Nevertheless, I haven’t given up and will continue to do everything possible to stand up for those people who deserve some badly needed support during this time in need.

I have also submitted a proposal to Canberra for funding for a WAFIC Seafood Export Market Development project, which is designed to stimulate a greater export focus for certain seafood industry sectors and importantly to secure new diversified markets in non-traditional countries.  We await the outcome with fingers crossed and I wish to sincerely thank the many sectors who provided their written support for the application.  It’s times like this that we as an industry must pull together for the greater good rather than focusing on narrow self-interests. Instead, we need to demonstrate compassion, care and support for our people.

A few weeks ago we had our first meeting with the new Fisheries Minister Don Punch and were very encouraged by his professional approach and positive demeanour and we feel confident the interests of the fishing industry will get a good hearing.  Obviously we have a long shopping list of things to discuss and will be continuing to engage with him and his team as we move forward.

We have also been getting a significant amount of media coverage, with a number of long radio interviews going Statewide on issues like sharks and State of Origin seafood labelling for restaurants and fish and chip shops.  In particular we had about 15 minutes of focus in prime-time morning ABC radio, and in doing so were able to drive home our core messages about the importance of our industry and our excellent sustainability credentials.  WAFIC also appeared in a segment on national TV on ABC Landline – and we have another three scheduled for release in coming months featuring stories on WA’s seafood industry.

So in closing there are certainly some things happening, but the challenges of Mother Nature and international geopolitics simply never go away.  As an industry we must continue to demonstrate resilience, adaptability and unity. But most importantly we need to put sectoral interests aside and support each other for the common good.

Best regards,