South Coast aquaculture proposal
I recently attended some interesting meetings in Esperance and Albany in relation to the proposed development of aquaculture zones.
DPIRD has identified a site at the South East end of Wyllie Bay, about 25 kilometres from Esperance township. WAFIC is a strong supporter of aquaculture and has made strong representations to DPIRD to ensure a deeper level of engagement with the commercial fishing sector. The feedback from local Esperance fishers was extremely valuable – while having no objections in principle, a number of factors were identified which indicated that the site was probably unsuitable. This was a perfect example of drawing on years of expertise from local fishers and using this to better inform an evaluation process.
Albany was a different case. There are proposed aquaculture zones in Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound which have not yet been gazetted – so there is plenty of opportunity to listen to the commercial fishing sector during the ongoing consultation process. This is important, as some of the sites are likely to impact on historical operations and with some sensible adjustments we are confident that an outcome which is satisfactory for all stakeholders can be achieved.
However, the real challenge is in Oyster Harbour where the consultation process was inadequate. Locals were given an early opportunity for comment, but once the Master Plan had been decided upon there was no opportunity for public review and comment. Instead the area was gazetted and applications for proposed aquaculture developments invited.
When WAFIC raised its concerns, DPIRD agreed to have another consultation meeting and we soon identified that the historical activities of local commercial fishers were likely to be significantly impacted at this site. This creates a real challenge given the gazettal has already been finalised, so we will be working closely with government to ensure that a fair and sensible outcome can be identified.
Furthermore, we are making representations to government to adopt and embed a stronger consultation process for future aquaculture zones. While we certainly support the expansion of aquaculture, it is critical that the impact on existing commercial fishers is minimised.
We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.