CEO Message to industry – Industry support package approved

I’m pleased to confirm that the Western Australia’s Fisheries Minister, Peter Tinley, has supported and approved the seafood industry’s COVID-19 recovery and stimulus package, which was presented to the Premier and senior government Ministers on 24 March.

Headlining the good news is a $1.3 million package of fee relief measures to support WA’s commercial seafood sector and confirmation that fees charged to access the fishing resource will be deferred to 2021. The waiving of a range of licence fees and deferring access fee payments is seen as a way of removing a significant cost burden from commercial fishers in this time of great turmoil and uncertainty.

Minister Tinley’s letter confirming the package approval can be view at this link.

Government fees and charges are the biggest cash cost for most of our fishing businesses, after wages and fuel.  Port pen fees – another substantial impost, have also been waived following WAFIC’s representation to the Minister for Transport.

The new package announced today is in addition to recent support provided to WA’s rock lobster fishery and the Commonwealth’s $110 million air freight support package.

We are already seeing early signs for limited demand for WA seafood in the China market and the new mechanisms for air freight support announced last week will enable the beginning of the recovery stage for our export producers.

I would like to thank those sector members and other industry leaders who worked with WAFIC to develop this package. This has been a mammoth team effort and demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together as a cohesive and unified industry.

I’m pleased to also acknowledge the support and encouragement offered by the Western Australian Government and Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley who listened and responded definitively throughout this process.  We look forward to working with the Minister and his team at DPIRD in partnership as we confirm operational details and help the industry navigate through the COVID-19 storm.

We’ve also seen the government approve the limited use of G-nets to take Australian herring for human consumption for the 2020/21 season. This is good news for the herring sector and will provide a great opportunity to demonstrate the industry’s capacity to balance catch while retaining and growing a sustainable resource.

Further thanks goes out to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) team which is providing a six-month extension of the standard timelines for assessments and certifications, which will provide valuable cash flow relief. This is the first time in its 22-year history that MSC has done this, which underpins how serious they view the current environment.

From an industry perspective, this support package was always seen as a hand-up, more than a hand-out for the State’s fishers, pearlers and aquaculture farmers and is an important element of the industry’s long-term recovery and market re-connection.

Thanks to our members and seafood industry contributors for your support. We look forward to working through the details of this important package with you over coming weeks. Please keep us informed on your progress, and stumbling blocks as well as any wins, as we roll out the operational detail. Early feedback is essential to quick remedies.

We will be working with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s executive team to finalise full details on the sector-wide relief and stimulus package and will share all with members as soon as a fact sheet is available.