CEO Message – Plenty of challenges ahead

There is a diverse range of very important issues facing WAFIC at the moment, requiring significant levels of consultation with industry participants, as well as various levels of government.

An immediate challenge has been presented from the deeply-flawed marine park planning processes for both the Marmion and South Coast areas, where the interests of the commercial fishing industry and small coastal communities have been shamefully put at risk by the eco-zealots infiltrating the corridors of DBCA.  The public consultation phases will soon begin and throughout this process they will most definitely be challenged and held to account – and we will do absolutely everything possible to protect the potentially impacted fishers and communities from heartless consequences.

There are also broader challenges at play for our industry from the cumulative impacts across the State from the loss of productive waters. On the one hand, it is by ridiculously conceived marine park sanctuary zones, while on the other it is the impacts of seismic surveying, planned offshore windfarm exclusion areas, expansive solar salt projects in Pilbara inter-tidal areas, desalination plants and suchlike.  Collectively we are looking at the potential loss of many thousands of square kilometres of critically important areas, and the consequences will soon show at the consumer level when fish & chip shops cannot source local products and WA will have to import even more unsustainably-sourced seafood products from overseas.

A tipping point has already been reached, where already 70 per cent of WA’s seafood consumption is imported from often-dodgy sources. So, unless there is some balanced regulation of aquatic industrial developments and sensible design of marine park sanctuary zones, then we are going to see the levels of imports surging further, and the public will certainly not be happy.

Meanwhile we are still closely tracking the implementation of the west coast demersal reforms and the slow progress to date has been quite frustrating. However, we know that it is difficult and as long as they are delivered in full, we will remain at the table.  The real-time data reporting will now be introduced in mid-year and this critical foundation stone will deliver scientific data which can better allow DPIRD to protect the sustainability of the fishery.

Despite not contributing to the over-fishing that has occurred over recent years, WAFIC continues to support the 50 per cent catch reductions and will deliver its set of commitments.  We note that the charter sector has also accepted a full 50 per cent reduction and, just like our sector, will unfortunately face significant economic impacts to their operations.

However, we remain very concerned that the proposals for the recreational sector simply will not achieve the desired outcomes, and if this is the case the sacrifices of the charter and commercial sectors will be wasted.  Therefore, we are watching the situation very closely, particularly for any signs of commitment softening by other parties.

In closing, I’d like to mention that an enormous amount of work is being undertaken by WAFIC on industry’s behalf to help manage the transition to the Aquatic Resources Management Act (ARMA) by 1 November 2023.  This process has been technically very challenging, and we have been fortunate to have had valuable input from committed commercial fishing participants who have dedicated efforts to ensure we are well positioned and the best interests of the industry as a whole can be protected.

WAFIC will continue to dedicate core resources to this task, and I’d encourage all fishers to track progress and monitor the information that we will be circulating along the way.