Community shows support for local seafood

This week I’d like to take a few moments to recognise the amazing role the fishing industry plays in this great State of ours.  I’m really privileged to be able to represent and advocate not only on behalf of our members, but also for those in the community who rely so much upon the industry.

It was very apparent during a recent interview on ABC radio where we were discussing the importance of maintaining the flow of seafood to fish & chip shops – when the switchboard literally lit up with positive emails, SMS messages and phone calls expressing support for fishers and the role they play in Australian culture.

You can listen to the radio interview here.

Clearly this is something that is quietly honoured and valued across our community and it’s only when there is talk of the supply getting tighter that there is an immediate rally of support.  In particular, people talked about the fond indelible memories that seafood has created in their lives. So, it’s much more than a matter of them getting a feed of protein. It’s about families and friends coming together for special events – and let’s face it, there’s nothing more special than sharing some local WA fish & chips sprinkled with chicken salt at sunset (while feeding some pesky seagulls as well).  Personally, I believe this directly translates to broader political support because with passionate people like this behind us, we can be assured they will make their case if they ever see their treasured experiences being placed at threat.

We’ve got our challenges right here and now of course, and WAFIC is ever-conscious of the dangers of further encroachment upon the already crowded marine estate.  We’re desperately elbowing our way into the approval processes over a plethora of new coastal industrial projects to make sure that our voices are heard.  Likewise, with a number of planned offshore wind energy projects, the risk of being left out of the equation would mean our interests could easily be damaged – but with a seat at the table we can hopefully find some win-win outcomes.

At times it’s been a struggle, but we are starting to be noticed and we will continue to advocate the need for government to have an improved approval regime for marine projects, which doesn’t only give a formal say to the whales and dolphins, but also potentially affected stakeholders, such as the commercial fishing industry.  We don’t believe the approval processes should be governed solely by the interests of the fleshy-footed shearwaters – surely the good old fleshy-footed fishermen also deserve a say!

Meanwhile I continue to receive many concerns over the potential sanctuary zones in the proposed South Coast Marine Park and Marmion Marine Park and the impacts these may have on individual livelihoods, as well as the ability of the industry as a whole to maintain sufficient seafood supplies to the WA community.  You can be assured that we have made long and sustained (and at times impassioned and vigorous) representations to government over this matter – and these will continue.

However, in saying this, we have been given repeated assurances from government that the impacts on fishers will be minimised and our people will be treated fairly.  The next few months will tell the story and provide us all with some indication as to what the future will really look like, so in the meantime I’d encourage everybody to exercise some extra patience and restraint until a clearer picture emerges and we can then determine the most appropriate response or way forward.

Best wishes