WA Nationals Spokesman for Fisheries Ian Blayney welcomes the Government’s approval of WAFIC’s seafood industry COVID-19 stimulus package but notes that support for commercial herring operators was long overdue.
The case for re-establishing the G-trap net fishery has been put forward by many in the industry, particularly in the last few years, after restrictions were imposed on commercial herring operators back in 2015.
“The recent Government approval for fisherman to use G-nets to take Australian herring for human consumption in the 2020/21 season is a welcome acknowledgement of the industry’s persistent appeals for the use of G-nets to be re-instated,” Mr Blayney said.
“Several commercial herring fisherman have managed the difficult process of breaking into the food market so the authorisation for this type of method to be used to secure resources for human consumption will be important to their businesses.
“A partial discharge of the G-net restrictions will provide the herring sector with ample opportunity to demonstrate the industry’s capacity to balance the ongoing concerns in relation to catch limits vs sustainability.
With the Government’s inability to give the sector an indication of how they would manage the resource in the lead up to the season several years ago, Mr Blayney is glad the Government have boosted the confidence of the industry by starting to listen to the sector again.
“It was disgraceful that stakeholders were kept in the dark about their catch limits just before the start of the season back in 2018,” he said.
“Fisherman rely on such information to make informed business decisions and it was disappointing to see this opportunity was not provided to the industry.
“However, the actions of the current Fisheries Minister, Peter Tinley show that support and encouragement is now being offered to commercial herring operators and I am hopeful that this will continue.
Mr Blayney said he also pleased the Government have implemented the other suggestions put forward by WAFIC to help all fisherman in the seafood industry, namely the deferral of access fees to 2021, the waiving of port pen fees and the six-month extension for Marine Stewardship Council.
“Abandoning a range of licence fees and access fee payments removes the cost burden that many hardworking fisherman and their families are currently facing due to the impacts of COVID-19,” Mr Blayney said.
“All of these implementations are welcome additions on top of the Western Rock Lobster rescue plans announced by the State Government back at the beginning of March.
“The extension of the WRL fishing season and a new mechanism making it easier for fisherman to sell rock lobster off the back of their boat will provide greater certainty for commercial WRL operators and will ensure the continuity of their cash flow.
“Back of boat sales will increase the local supply of this well sort after resource and the local lobster program is certainly something that I’ve always advocated for,” Mr Blayney said.
“Such support complements the financial assistance provided to the fishing industry by the Federal Government and together will reduce the fallout from COVID-19 and provide opportunities for industry to start to implement business decisions to ensure a successful recovery.