Fishing for the right balance – Unlocking the key for co-existence between green energy and commercial fisheries

A new national research project has launched in Western Australia to understand the cumulative impacts on the fishing industry arising from the emerging offshore renewable energy sector, increasing marine park sanctuary zones and the expansion of industrial coastal developments.

The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), with funding through the Australian Government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is undertaking research (2022-104) to review and quantify the cumulative effects of offshore developments, to better understand their impact on commercial and recreational fishing, as well as aquaculture, charter, and Indigenous fishing.

The commercial fishing industry plays a vital role for the community by providing food security and supporting regional communities. Under the current model there is an imbalance between planning, legislation and mechanisms governing access to marine environments and aquatic resources resulting in some marine users being more heavily impacted than others.

In Australia, we have an opportunity before offshore wind farms are placed in Australian waters to adequately identify the impacts, by reviewing the literature and learning from other international experiences, to provide an evidence-based understanding of the rapidly emerging offshore renewable energy sector. This research will also guide the development of a ‘co-existence framework’ for how new industries can work side-by-side and build long-term collaborative relationships with existing fishing sector stakeholders, to protect and sustain the benefits they bring to the Western Australian community. It is envisaged this framework could be adopted at a state or national level for future renewable energy projects or other coastal developments that impact aquatic resources.

To further enhance this project, WAFIC, the South Australian Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishermen’s Association and FRDC, are funding an additional project (2022-201) to bring the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Chief Executive Officer, Elspeth Macdonald, to Australia to share and learn from Scotland’s experiences with offshore renewable energy. This exchange of knowledge will guide the development of a framework that encourages co-existence between offshore renewable energy and commercial fishing.

Darryl Hockey, WAFIC Chief Executive Officer said Western Australia’s commercial fishing industry is at the forefront of witnessing competition for resource access along the WA coastline.

“Developing a framework informed by international experience will help ensure that the fishing sector can take an educated position on marine spatial planning, particularly in relation to the emerging offshore renewable energy sector. It will also help stakeholders understand the potential impacts and co-existence opportunities to help limit any future displacement of fishers, while supporting the economic and social viability of the fishing industry.”

“This project, together with Mrs Macdonald’s visit, is a great opportunity to ensure Western Australia’s local seafood supply chain remains a key industry in coastal communities,” Darryl said.

For more information on this project please visit the FRDC website via https://www.frdc.com.au/project/2022-104 and https://www.frdc.com.au/project/2022-201, or contact WAFIC.