CEO Message – The people of WA deserve a fair go

There is a well-known saying that you should never pick on someone who has nothing left to lose, and to a great extent, this is the case facing WA’s commercial fishing industry.

With the abysmal management of the consultation process for the South Coast Marine Park (and Marmion Marine Park extension too), WAFIC has done everything possible to represent the balanced views of industry and secure a win-win outcome.

All we wanted from government was a seat at the table – a voice – as we didn’t want our people to have the interests of their families and communities stripped away.

Sadly, it soon became clear that people’s livelihoods were seen as disposable, local input was being ignored, the views of foreign environmental extremists were being prioritised, there was no scientific basis, dozens of solemn commitments were openly broken, and socioeconomic values were never considered.

It is bitterly disappointing that our fishing families were so unfairly placed in situational distress through this cold-hearted and uncaring approach.

All the way through, we have consistently, positively reached out and offered to be a part of the solution.

From the earliest, we offered to be an equal partner with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the indigenous groups for the development, implementation and future management of the marine parks.

Yes, the WA Government had our offer for a world-leading partnership, which could have delivered amazing social, environmental and economic outcomes, but this was dismissed.  We provided many written submissions over the design process and pointed out ways to improve the outcomes. After all, there was a lack of science, but our fishers were willing to share their intense knowledge of the benthic habitats of the south cost, yet this too was ignored.  Throughout the process we have met, and talked in-depth, with countless people inside government, at agency level, with Ministers and their staff, even the Premier’s staff.

Despite all of this, it remains absolutely clear that the final outcome has been determined well before the consultation processes even started.  Also, the architects were wholly committed to exacting significant damage on commercial and recreational fishing, while ignoring the impacts on WA seafood supply, with the resulting surge in imports of frozen fish from illegal and unethical northern hemisphere sources.

Bad things prevail when good people sit idly by and do nothing, so WAFIC was left with no choice but to stand up against this significant injustice.

The last few months certainly haven’t been pleasant from our perspective, as we have had to expose the litany of bad practices at government agency level.  However, the people of Western Australia deserve much better. A monopoly government has no justification for domineering colonial behaviour by one of its agencies, including conferring exclusive privileges on foreign environmental groups, above the desire of WA communities.

We are supposed to live in a progressive transparent democracy, driven by equity and fairness, instead social justice has been thrown out the window and unfortunately these policies of dispossession will remain as an indelible stain on government for decades to come.

WAFIC continues to do whatever possible to ensure the community secures a balanced outcome and the interests of all people (not only commercial fishers) are valued.

Darryl Hockey