CEO Message – Laying foundations for emerging challenges

Hi there,

The last month or two has been a tremendously challenging period for our industry, primarily due to the review of west coast demersal (WCD) scalefish management arrangements.

The principles at stake are core and central to every other fishery in this State so WAFIC clearly knew that everything was on the line and each of us committed to representing industry’s views in a complete and thorough manner.  This meant that many of our resources were disproportionately reassigned from other responsibilities to WCD and as a result during this time some fisheries received less attention than they deserved, but ultimately this was a critical strategic decision which simply had to be made.

The fact is that WAFIC is seriously under-resourced and under-funded at the best of times, so we always have to divide the loaves and fishes on a daily basis just to get through.

The Minister is likely to make his final WCD determinations in the coming weeks and while some of the finer details have still not been settled, it is clear that the Minister remains absolutely determined to deliver the 50% benchmark reductions for all sectors in full.  If this is implemented expeditiously and managed properly – informed by accurate, real time data collection along the way – then we can be confident the resource will recover quickly.

Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that these changes will have considerable impacts upon our active wet-line west coast demersal fishers and the coming months and years will be extremely difficult for them and their families and the coastal community lifeblood they contribute towards.

This industry is unique in the way it must continually absorb the impacts of seemingly endless resource management changes, and at WAFIC we will continue to dedicate our efforts to trying to develop a more stable and secure operating environment and ensuring that government and other stakeholders better understand the human elements.

One thing is for sure, the external pace of change is as fast as ever and there are more challenges coming our way.  There are all sorts of coastal developments now popping up which can individually and cumulatively have impacts on the operations of commercial fishing.

If we lose swathes of water to marine park sanctuary zones or desalination plants, or Westport, or solar salt projects, or hydrogen hubs, or offshore windfarms, or other developments then the flow of seafood to the community will be significantly impacted, prices will climb and there will be a consequential further flood of imports of products from unsustainable overseas sources.  By the time government acts it will be too late, so WAFIC is doing everything it can to ensure that the nature of the challenges is appreciated, and we can then work alongside them to explore potential solutions.

Over coming weeks I’ll provide a more comprehensive appraisal of the (what we are terming) ‘Spatial Squeeze’ our industry is facing and the need for better State and Commonwealth approval processes to ensure we have a proper say.

I recently took time out from my short overseas holiday and met with fishing associations in Finland and Denmark, which are facing the exact same problems – and also had a long meeting with the CEO of Copenhagen Energy, which is the main windfarm proponent for WA’s offshore waters.

Having a clear international picture and learning from the shortcomings of countries that have been dealing with these issues over recent years provides a valuable perspective for us and an insight into what lies ahead.

Meanwhile over coming weeks and months we have a number of issues to address, including making ongoing representations to government over marine park sanctuary zones, liaising with government over a structural adjustment program for the Kimberley marine parks, and guiding valuable industry input into the critically important ARMA policy papers.  We encourage fishers to continue to monitor these issues closely.

Best wishes