New air freight and funding support measures announced for seafood industry

After the turmoil and anxiety of recent weeks, it’s great to be able to share some encouraging news.

Western Australia’s seafood industry had some good news on fee relief overnight with the State Government confirming it will:

  • Waive pen fees for commercial fishing boats
  • Waive boat registration and mooring fees for commercial fishing boats.
  • Waive a range licencing fees, noting a request for deferral of access fees is still pending cabinet decision – announcements to follow.

Pen fees and licence fees are a major cost to fishing operations, so the waiver of these fees will provide a huge boost for local fisheries.

Air freight funding
The Federal Government has also announced a funding package to support air freight to a number of high-value export markets – including China and Japan.

The new $110 million air freight initiative will back Australia’s agricultural and fisheries sector by helping them export their high-quality produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment.

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism will initially focus on the key markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, with four key departure hubs: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

WAFIC and industry sector members have presented an additional airfreight proposal to the WA Government, specifically to support local primary industries.

WA’s Western Rock Lobster exporters are already seeing demand picking up and the new airfreight services will help them fill some of the orders for more than 25 tonnes of lobster each week.

Have your say
While the air freight funding is confirmed, the Federal Government is seeking more information on what the industry needs in terms of international freight assistance so it can shape the program to best match demand and needs with freight capacity.

It’s important that you share any information as soon as possible via this survey link. https://haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/international-freight-assistance

Industry plans for the future
Over recent weeks, WAFIC and our commercial industry partners have been working together to propose a support package that will assist the whole of industry to bounce back, so I’m encouraged to see these key elements approved and look forward to more announcements over coming days specifically tailored to aid the commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture sectors.

The overall purpose of the broader proposal is to help members to:

  1. Stabilise their cashflows and retain staff
  2. Adjust their business operations to the new market conditions, and
  3. Initiate sales activities for a rapid recovery post-crisis.

The latest support arrives on the back of news earlier this week that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) will provide all fisheries with an automatic six-month certificate extension. This means that for WA’s ten MSC fisheries the costs to maintain certification can be deferred until next year, which will provide these fisheries with a significant financial boost as they adjust their business operations to the new conditions. In line with this, Conformity Assessment Bodies have been told to extend deadlines for all associated processes, including assessments, conditions, action plans and milestones.

While this is great news, this support is not an end-game solution. However, it does provide the industry with a fantastic opportunity to gain some ground and shore up cashflows so we can re-establish our markets and be ready to go when the markets return in full.

We’ll keep you updated as more details are confirmed.

In the meantime, you’ll find more information at the following links.

Further information
Air freight support for essential agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries

Joint letter to seafood industry on support measures

Media release on air freight and support measures

WA unveils $1 billion COVID-19 relief package

For overarching COVID-19 information and assistance, including travel and border controls, visit the WAFIC website