Vale Bernard Bowen

Vale Bernard Bowen

WAFIC notes with sadness the passing of former Department of Fisheries Chief Executive Bernard Bowen who has left behind a lasting legacy that will benefit generations to come.

Bernard Bowen was a global leader in fishery management who laid the foundations for rights-based fisheries management in Western Australia which was subsequently adopted by many fishing nations throughout the world. He spent 24 years at the head of the former Fisheries Department until 1991 and was Western Australia’s first government marine research scientist. He strongly believed in fishermen having their say. It was through his support and belief that fishers needed to get together to debate issues and present a considered, professional and united voice that the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council flourished.

Recognised as one of the most influential and respected fisheries managers in Australia and internationally, he made ground-breaking decisions in the management of WA fish stocks. In 1963, he established the rock lobster fishery, which was the first of many limited entry fisheries in the State and a system subsequently adopted across the world. The Western Rock Lobster fishery would not enjoy its success today without Mr Bowen’s intervention and guidance.

He was also responsible for ensuring that these successful fishery management regimes were informed by science. Accordingly, he established the Waterman’s Scientific Research laboratories where leading researchers provided the necessary scientific advice to underpin sound fisheries management arrangements.

Through his role in Fisheries and other endeavours, Bernard was successful in the history of scientific and public administration in Western Australia;

  • In 1991, Dr Bowen was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the fishing industry.
  • After leaving the department, Bernard went onto become deputy chair of the WA Environmental Protection Authority from 1994–1997 and served as chair from 1997–2003.
  • In 2005, at the request of the State Government, Bernard guided the establishment of the WA Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and was its founding chair.
  • Bernard was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1991, was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal in 2003 and was inducted into the WA Science Hall of Fame in 2011.
  • The University of Western Australia awarded Bernard an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2016 and a minor planet was named in his honour in 2017.

WAFIC acknowledges that fishers throughout many WA fisheries owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bernard.

Our sincerest condolences to Bernard’s family on their loss.