Update on COVID-19 vaccinations for the WA fishing industry

In line with keeping industry members informed on the status of mandatory vaccinations, Western Rock Lobster Council (WRLC) has shared information for this update.

Vaccination categories have been divided into groups.

Group One

Group One includes occupations that are at sufficiently high risk of transmission, vulnerability or necessary to avoid catastrophic risk to the safety of the community.

Group One were required to be double-dosed vaccinated by 31 December 2021

Group Two

Group Two are those deemed critical to the ongoing delivery of business and function of the community and were required to be double-dosed vaccinated by 31 January 2022.

Group Three

There is a third group which are required to be fully vaccinated to attend work in the event of a lockdown and it is still not clear which group of commercial fishers and WRLC members or processors fall within this definition.

To assist, DPRD has created an information sheet for WA’s Fishing Industry, which confirms to  members that there is no mandatory vaccine requirement by government for crews/skippers operating on fishing vessels or for fish processors – at this time.

We also understand that fishers involved in Back of Boat lobster sales, or similar direct ship to shore sales, are not subject to the mandatory vaccination requirements set out in ‘Critical Business Worker Restrictions Access Directions (No 2)‘.

It is important to note that the factsheet also states “While there is no specific Direction that applies to the fishing or fish processing sector, it is important that industry participants review the Directions for applicability to the premises they operate.” The ‘Directions’ are listed here.

Some companies or individual businesses may have introduced their own mandatory vaccine requirements for employees to mitigate the serious commercial and health risk associated with significant positive COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

New Definition of ‘Critical Worker’ in the event of a ‘Very High Caseload Environment’

The WA Government recently released categories of ‘critical workers’ that will be subject to new testing and isolating protocols when WA enters into a ‘very high caseload environment’.

The purpose of this is to ensure the continuation of services and supply of goods that are necessary for safety or community wellbeing. As to when WA reaches a ‘very high caseload environment’ will be based on the State’s epidemiological and outbreak response, and subject to the latest health advice.

Once a high caseload environment has been confirmed, the following will apply:

  • New close contact definition
  • New testing and isolation protocols
  • Casual contacts will cease in WA, in line with the national approach.

As noted, the WA Government has released categories of specified industries with some guidance as to workers who would be considered critical in each industry.

Commercial Fishing‘ is listed under the ‘Agriculture’ category. Further, there is a ‘Food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing, supply and retailing’ category, and this lists ‘a person who works at a work premises used for the distribution, production, and processing of goods: food including meat and seafood processing‘.

We understand then, that people employed in commercial fishing and in seafood processing, could be defined as ‘critical workers’ in the event of a ‘high caseload environment’.

Critical workers who are close contacts will be required to follow the new testing and isolating protocols as follows:

  • If symptomatic, follow symptomatic close contact rules
  • If asymptomatic, and you are required to work for continuity of operations, you must have a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) daily
  • When working you must work with a surgical mask, use other PPE where possible, and if possible travel alone
  • When outside of work, you must self-isolate
  • If a RAT is positive, you must self-isolate for 7 days.
  • If symptoms ever develop, you must follow symptomatic close contact rules (link above).

 Notably, not all workers in the specified industries are considered critical and workplaces will be required to determine the number of critical roles, based on the WA Government’s guidelines.

Employers must register this information with the State Government through its online registration system.

We will keep you updated as more information comes to hand.