Consultation the Key to Better Outcomes for WA Seafood Industry

Western Australia’s peak seafood industry body believes the most practical solutions to shared industry challenges will only come from broad industry consultation.

Chief Executive Officer of the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), Alex Ogg, said the State Government’s recent decision to launch a three-year trial enabling charter boat operators increased access to Western Rock Lobsters occurred without any consultation with the seafood industry peak body.

“The lack of engagement on this matter was a missed opportunity for the Government to work with the commercial and recreational industries to provide tourists with greater access to local lobsters through fishing charter operators, with less controversial outcomes,” Mr Ogg said.

“WAFIC fully supports The Western Rock Lobster Council (WRLC) and its commitment to ensuring more locals and tourists are able to enjoy our State’s most iconic seafood through well planned schemes going forward.”

Last week, the State Government announced that charter businesses will be able to more than double the number of Western Rock Lobsters they can catch and provide a catch-and-cook experience onboard their vessels. The charter catch quota is to be allocated from the existing five per cent recreational catch share. Mr Ogg noted that while the State Government asserted there will be no impact on the commercial seafood industry, WAFIC has concerns in relation to compliance and the potential for the initiative to increase black market activities.

“This allocation should include a review of the current recreational catch to ensure that agreed catch shares are not exceeded under the trial,” he said.

“It is essential that a defined monitoring program is in place to ensure the objectives of this new program are achieved and are measured. Our industry needs assurances that the integrity of the existing management plans for the rock lobster fishery are not compromised and WAFIC expects the WRLC, the peak industry body for our rock lobster industry, to be invited to participate in this exercise and be an integral part of the solution moving forward.”

Mr Ogg said WA’s seafood industry is highly regulated and underpinned by sound science, compliance and enforcement, resulting in WA’s commercial operators being recognised for their sustainable and responsible stewardship, citing Western Rock Lobsters ‘world first’ Marine Stewardship Council certification.

“We want to ensure that the recreational and charter industries also adhere to these high standards and accountability under this new trial,” he said.

“Additionally, WAFIC is seeking assurance that WA commercial operators will not be impacted financially and that their resources and livelihoods are secured into the future.”

“Our seafood industry employs thousands of workers, not only in our coastal communities but across the supply chain, including retailers, wholesalers and logistics. Our fishers also provide high quality seafood products and contribute to WA’s hospitality and booming food  tourism industries.”

“We trust the Government will continue to prioritise processes for resource sharing in order to maximise economic returns to the State, social returns to our community and greater certainty towards a vibrant future for our producers.”

Mr Ogg said WAFIC is supporting the WRLC’s desire to reopen communication channels with Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly and to work with Government on a strategy and coordinated plan for managing the lobster resource including a local supply to bolster tourism, hospitality and development in the regions.

“Across WA’s seafood portfolio, with key stakeholders from these sectors around the table, we will be able to ensure WA’s seafood industry has a voice when it comes to shaping how tourists and locals alike have access to our State’s wide range of highly valued and sustainable local seafood.”

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