WAFIC represents industry at Senate committee into seismic testing

The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) took centre stage last week at the Australian Senate inquiry into the impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment.

The Senate Inquiry received more than 80 submissions from individuals, organisations and exploration companies. You can view WAFIC‘s submission (number 67) and submissions from other peak bodies and individuals in the commercial fishing industry at the Senate Inquiry site.

WAFIC’s Resource Access Officer responsible for oil and gas, Mannie Shea; along with Executive Officer at the Pearl Producers Association, Aaron Irving; Western Rock Lobster CEO, Matt Taylor; and Northern Territory Seafood Council CEO, Katherine Winchester addressed the Australian Senate and answered questions from the Inquiry panel.

Mannie Shea spoke strongly on the need for the commercial fishing industry to be heard and for the community to be aware of the potential long-term and cumulative impacts of seismic testing on the commercial fishing resource and the broader marine environment.

The limitations of available research, in many cases the lack of research and the need for these research voids to be filled was stressed to the Senate. The commercial fishing industry is already punching above its weight with an industry levy directed to the Fisheries Research Development Corporation (FRDC). The FRDC has already contributed to offshore research projects.

Our industry has an expectation that the well-funded offshore sector must also commit to a compulsory levy to support environmental research specific to their activities and the potential impacts on our industry, which will deliver a better environment plan and a better outcome for all.

WAFIC’s formal submission seeks support from the Australian Senate with a specific target of achieving a compulsory research levy from the offshore oil, gas and seismic industry to contribute and fund these significant research gaps, delivering a compulsory and equitable contribution to science to assist to identify and mitigate the risks they create as part of their offshore seismic activity and other work.

The WAFIC submission underlined the fact that the fishing industry is frequently required to absorb the potential impacts and risks – particularly ongoing cumulative impacts – without these risks being acknowledged and without entitlement to compensation.

It was also noted that the impact on fish stocks often takes years to become apparent, as is the case for the longer-lived species such as Red Emperor and spawning fish, making them particularly vulnerable and essential to be a research target.

Since WAFIC’s Senate Inquiry submission of December 2019, our Victorian commercial fishing colleagues had significant issues with a large seismic survey in Bass Strait in 2020, with evidence-based catch reductions of over 80 percent since the start of this seismic program.

An ABC report on the Victorian findings can be viewed here.

The Hansard transcript of WAFIC’s presentation to the Senate will be uploaded to this site soon – see, Canberra 21st September 2020 hearing.