CEO message to industry

Well, we’re now halfway through the year and it’s been quite a journey already with the challenges of COVID, China, easterlies, an election, a cyclone plus huge winter rain events as well.

Then we have so many travellers wandering out yonder that the coastal highways and communities are now flooded with cars and boats and people.  The combined impact of all of these elements has been remarkable.

At WAFIC we’re moving ahead as quickly as possible to restructure things to achieve greater serviceability for the industry – and this includes negotiating with government to hopefully secure a new long-term funding agreement, with appropriate terms and conditions of course.  Tied up in all of this is the challenge we face from the COVID impacts on Gross Value Product (GVP) which will see a significant reduction in funding for the coming year, unfortunately with bigger cuts to follow for the next few financial years due to the rolling three-year average.  Nevertheless, we have provided sector bodies with new transitional funding agreements to keep them secure until government decides upon our longer-term future.

In the meantime, we’ve been super busy working on a whole raft of burning issues. I’d like to quickly touch upon a couple.  The Ngari Capes Marine Park compensation process has been painful for far too many fishers and an extraordinarily difficult challenge given the open flaws in the FRICMA legislation.  WAFIC’s involvement must be conducted carefully as the negotiations are private commercial matters between the fishers and government, so our role is more about trying to engineer a fair process.  Each sector has a different set of circumstances.  The Abalone crew have operated as a team and mounted a strong case, although the government has held firm and it is possible this matter will end up in the State Administrative Tribunal shortly.  For some time we have intervened to advocate on behalf of demersal and shark fishers who we consider have been given unfair offers.  It’s pleasing that DPIRD has now accepted our urgings and is undertaking a thorough review of the situation.

Compensation is always a painful process and we have been strongly engaged at senior levels of government to drive home the need for an adequate adjustment and compensation mechanism for those impacted by the Buccaneer Marine Park in the Kimberley.  The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) process to set up the marine park has been a dog’s breakfast and it will have major impacts on the fishing industry.  We have held meetings with Ministers and departmental heads to ensure they recognise the need to come up with fair and appropriate reparations – and these representations will continue.

Likewise with the planned South Coast Marine Park, the consultation process to date has been flawed and we continue to make very strong submissions to place us in the best position to protect the interests of the fishing industry.  The engagement has been high-level and you can be assured that our determination will not subside.

Finally, I want to touch on what should be recognised as a major failure in public policy over recent years.  Around 15 years ago, scientific data indicated the West Coast Demersal populations were under serious threat and eventually in 2010 a Recovery Strategy was put in place based on IFM principles.  This strategy set out harvest limits for commercials and recreationals alike.  Early on the commercial sector went over for one indicator species for a couple of years, but this was quickly addressed and has been well under for every other, so our average is safely below the limits.  On the other hand, the recreational sector has gone way over the top each and every year. In fact, the last available figures showed their snapper catch was double the target!  We are currently awaiting the latest stock assessment numbers to come out and we expect them to be alarming and WAFIC is adamant that some emergency action must be taken to avoid irreparable damage to the breeding stocks.

You can be confident that we have a plan in place to make sure the inaction over management responses is firmly addressed, and we’ll keep you informed.

Best regards