Windfarms ignore impacts on seafood supply

The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), which is the State’s peak seafood industry body, has raised concerns over the lack of consultation over today’s Federal Government announcement of prospective waters for offshore renewable energy off Bunbury, in Western Australia.

WAFIC Chief Executive, Darryl Hockey aid the WA fishing industry is supportive of offshore renewable energy, however it is essential that the planning is firstly done carefully to best avoid impacts on commercial fishing and seafood supply to the community.

“Today’s announcement confirms our worst fears and is disappointing given we reached out to engage with the Federal Government more than six months ago, to ensure they could circumvent priority fishing grounds, which simply didn’t happen.”

“It’s disappointing that the cumulative impacts of overlapping government policies are rarely considered when making such decisions.  For instance, last Wednesday the WA Fisheries Minister transferred 20 tonnes of entitlement away from the commercial fishing industry (and therefore away from the community); on Friday the WA Environment Minister proposed that 3,300 square kilometres of highly productive fishing grounds would be permanently placed into marine park sanctuaries; and now we see an extra 7,600 square kilometres at threat from offshore windfarms,” he said.

“WA’s commercial fishing industry is currently being over-run all along the WA coastline, this phenomenon is occurring at a dangerous level and seafood supply to West Australians is clearly under threat,” he said.

“This is death by a thousand cuts for WA’s ongoing ability to source fresh local seafood. We are at a tipping point, already 70 per cent of seafood consumption is coming in as frozen imports from questionable overseas sources and this figure will rise further unless all levels of government start to think before acting,” said Mr Hockey.

“Before offshore wind farms are placed in Australia, we have an opportunity to learn from international experiences for an evidence-based understanding of the offshore renewable energy sector,” he said.

“However, the very first step is for governments to pause and think. Today’s announcement is yet another example of how governments are making decisions without adequate consultation or understanding the immediate and cumulative impacts. The marine environment is not uniform, the underwater habitats are diverse and fishing locations are often discrete or localised, so wind turbine locations need to be selected with a fine-tooth comb.”

“The absolute priority for the commercial fishing industry is to continue fishing sustainably and maintain its strong contribution to food security and WA socio-economic development, especially in regional coastal communities.”

“Therefore, WAFIC’s clear preference is for renewable energy projects to be located away from fishing grounds and for every effort to be made to avoid interactions. Where this is not possible, we need the opportunity to have input to the windfarm designs to minimise potential impacts,” Mr Hockey said.