WA seafood industry presents submission on private property rights

On Monday representatives from the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), Western Rock Lobster, the Pearl Producers Association (PPA), the West Coast Abalone Fishermen’s Association and John Horwood provided oral evidence to the Upper House Standing Committee on Public Administration inquiry into private property rights.

WAFIC spoke in support of its comprehensive submission which sets out legislative amendments and policy positions necessary to support fishing licences as property.

It also outlined first steps the committee could recommend including that:

  • The committee express its support for Rights Based Fisheries Management (RBFM) and endorse the recognition of the rights of fishers and aquaculturists and past practice of the state in providing compensation for commercial fishers and aquaculturists;
  • The committee recommends that the current partial compensation systems both statutory and policy based are formalised and extended. A first step under existing legislation would be consolidation of existing policies supporting rights-based management to be published as guidelines under sections 254 to 257 of the Aquatic Resource Management Act (ARMA); and
  • Given the importance of polices in relation to allocation, reallocation and compensation, that bringing fisheries under Part 3 of ARMA should only occur where fishers support such a move.

Dr Ron Edward said it’s important for the WA seafood industry to have their voice heard on this matter, as all Western Australians benefit from having strong commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture industries with secure access rights.

“WAFIC had a great opportunity to appear before the Legislative Council Parliamentary Committee Chaired by the Hon. Adele Farina to provide evidence in support of our submission on property rights. The key point made was that property rights are the essential foundation for building long term sustainable fishing industries for the benefit of the community. WAFIC also argued that fair and just compensation be paid, where it is required to reduce the access rights of commercial fishers,” he said.

“Without secure resource access – there is no incentive for industry to sustain fishery resources, invest in vessels and processing plants and train staff. In this world where responsible sustainable practices are sought by the community and Governments, it makes sense to provide incentives to encourage this outcome,” he said.

Concluding, Dr Edwards said that securing property rights would remain the number one priority for WAFIC.

“One of the restraints on the commercial seafood industry includes ongoing threats to resource access and property rights. Different to owning a piece of land, without more secure rights the commercial seafood industry is exposed to arbitrary interference by Government and its development is impeded which prevents the potential benefits from well managed commercial fisheries flowing onto the WA community.”