South Coast Marine Park Update

While the recent backflip on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws shows that the new Cook Labor Government is willing to listen to genuine community concerns, a radio interview with the WA Environment Minister last week has again set the clock back.

In his recent interview on ABC’s Country Hour, the WA Environment Minister continued to repeat the same hollow platitudes, those tired and time-worn messages about how “decisions haven’t yet been made,” the very same words used in the past, immediately before the announcement of the pre-determined decisions we could all clearly see coming for the Buccaneer Marine Park last year.  The problem is it is abundantly clear that we have been ignored all along, so it is simply not possible to get a fair outcome when we have been continually excluded.

Following the Buccaneer announcement, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) apologised to WAFIC and other stakeholders for the flawed consultation and absolutely promised it would never be repeated. However, it seems this may now just be DBCA’s playbook, as the agency is again being led around the garden by the same US eco-advisers keen to deliver massive marine parks and sanctuary zones, which will effectively kill off commercial and recreational fishing along the south coast.

Consultation means engaging, listening and acting on science-based information and community concerns.  That should be from local people, not arrogantly undertaking a pre-determined outcome driven by foreign, hard-core eco-lobbyists.

However, as we sit and wait for the official release of the draft sanctuary zone maps, which were developed months ago without sufficient commercial fishing (including DPIRD) input, or adequate science or socioeconomic studies, one thing is becoming abundantly clear.

Any over-reach on sanctuary zones bigger than 10 per cent, will not only devastate south coast commercial fishing, it will also impact Western Australia’s food security. This means an impact on WA’s capacity to feed itself in times of need, like we recently saw during the COVID border lockdowns.  And it will provide less, unique WA fresh local foods sought by consumers and tourists, and more frozen imports from unsustainable sources.

WA’s science-managed fisheries are already rated as 96 per cent sustainable and not-at-risk, so our fishers have a demonstrated, decades-long capacity to support environmental co-existence. So why does WA now need to establish some of the world’s biggest marine parks to support some of the world’s best examples of co-existence? Is it to tick a box, or is it to satisfy the desires of DBCA’s US eco-partners?

Either way, WA will be the loser if regional businesses are shut down and our consumers lose access to our world-class seafood. Meanwhile, the environment is also the biggest loser, as the demand for seafood moves from sustainably managed fisheries in WA, to illegal and unmanaged fisheries in developing third-world nations.

The only winners will be the billionaire US eco-lobby group, Pew, as it shuts down another fishery.

DBCA should be rightly ashamed of its woeful management of this issue.  However, the spotlight will soon shift from the performance of DBCA to the integrity of the government; whether the promises of the Ministers will be delivered in full, and if the lessons of the cultural heritage consultations have been learned.

To keep you updated, WAFIC has opened a page on its website for marine park information.