The Opposition has called on the Labor Government to undertake a further 12-month consultation period with small fishing operators prior to implementing the South Coast Bioregion Management Plan.

Shadow Fisheries Minister Colin de Grussa said several small fishing operators in Albany and Esperance had continually raised concerns on the accessbility to the wet line managed fishery.

“The access, which requires operators to have caught a minimum of 10,000kg of fish over a specified period, means that smaller operators will no longer have access to essential multi-species fishing,” Mr de Grussa said.

“Small inshore operators in Albany and licence holders in Esperance rightly fear the new access arrangements will unfairly favour large fishing operators so there is a very real risk these small operators will be forced out of business.”

Mr de Grussa expressed it was incumbent on the Labor Government to meet with impacted operators to understand how the new arrangements would adversely affect their businesses and livelihoods.

“This is just another shining example of this State Government’s disdain and out-of-sight, out-of-mind view of regional communities and businesses.”

Mr de Grussa said neither the Department for Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) nor the Fisheries Minister had made any effort to undertake meaningful engagement to investigate workable solutions to prevent these small operators from going out of business.

“Instead the Minister thought it more appropriate to stand up in Parliament last week and carelessly refer to these regional small operators as – ‘this is the sort of churn we see whenever there is a change within the fisheries framework, and the commercial sector has to adjust to it’.

“There is no thought from this Labor Government to protect and safeguard these regional residents and their livelihoods – what makes this issue even more disturbing is there is no clear scientific reason why these operators will be shut out of the fishery. In fact, DPIRD stated –

[i]The nature of these fisheries does not currently warrant complex or costly management arrangements. As such the Department is proposing to focus on implementing simple, cost effective and efficient management and administrative arrangements with the main priority being limiting access.

“Essentially, smaller locally-based operators are being thrown under the bus to make life easier for DPIRD, and judging by the Minister’s statements it seems he is more than happy for this to occur.”

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[i] Fisheries Management Paper 270, p3 http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/management_papers/fmp270.pdf