South Coast roadshow event highlights fisher concerns

A recent South Coast tour between Esperance and Albany has highlighted ongoing concerns and anxiety among WA’s commercial fishing industry in the region, with potential encroachment from proposed Marine Parks and expanding aquaculture leases among the major issues.

The four-day event saw WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) Chair, Murray Criddle; Chief Executive, Darryl Hockey; and Senior Operations Manager, Graeme Baudains undertake briefings and information sessions in Esperance, Bremer Bay and Albany earlier this month.

Participants continually expressed concerns over their perceptions that the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) appeared to be driving a pre-determined agenda over the marine parks.

Darryl Hockey advised that WAFIC was heavily invested and actively participating in the consultation process on behalf of commercial fishers and continually making strong representations at every level to ensure meaningful representation, but there were still many shortcomings in the DBCA model.

“The concept of a multi-use marine park is welcomed by most fishers, but the devil is always in the detail and many fishers are concerned there will be a fait accompli presented with regard to which areas will be excluded as strict no-fishing sanctuary zones,” he said.

WAFIC is a key stakeholder in the official consultation process and is actively engaged in the strategy, but certain elements of the process remain of concern and suggestions are continually being made to improve the situation.

“Commercial fishing has a very small footprint around Western Australia’s coast, and particularly along the South Coast, because the waters are unpredictable and the distances between ports are significant. In addition, the supply of fresh local fish to the WA community is difficult to maintain at the best of times.

 “If the wrong decisions are made, the consequences for local businesses and these regional communities that rely on fishing will be catastrophic,” Darryl said.

The consultation process is ongoing and Darryl assured south coast fishers that their concerns are being taken on board and strongly represented at marine park planning and Ministerial levels.