Opposition calls for review of demersal fishing ban following devastating impact on industry

The Opposition-Alliance has called on the Cook Labor Government to rethink the demersal fishing ban implemented at the start of the year following a devastating seven months on the industry.

WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam was joined by concerned businesses, fishing operators and recreational fishers in raising the issue in Parliament today calling for an urgent review.

“While no one disputes the need for a sustainable fishing industry, the Cook Labor Government’s ban is an overreach that is having a dire impact on a number of charter fishing operators, small businesses and recreational fishers in the West Coast Bioregion,” Ms Mettam said.

“The new rules have effectively cut the catch limits for charter operators by 73 per cent and forced operators to go on a tag allocation system,” Ms Mettam said.

“The ban has left 80 per cent of the charter industry from Kalbarri to Augusta facing the grim prospect of closure after only 21 of the 99 operators were allocated tags to allow their clients to catch and take home demersal fish.

“We know that demersal fish, such as dhufish or pink snapper, are the most popular to catch and many clients simply aren’t interested in catching non-demersal fish such as whiting or squid.

“The Cook Labor Government’s compromise of allowing charter boats who missed out on tags to operate, but only if they cook and eat what they catch on board, has delivered little to no relief to the gutted operators.

“The Opposition is calling on Labor to ensure the allocation is fairer, with a system that ensures the smaller operators are not wiped out by this move.”

Ms Mettam said tackle shops and small businesses in towns along the coast from Kalbarri to Augusta have also been significantly impacted.

“Since WA Labor’s ban, many tackle shops are reporting significant losses, with trade down by up to 85 per cent in some weeks. These business owners are now facing a stark reality of not being able to remain open amid such dire financial losses.

“Despite warnings from industry before the restrictions started, the Cook Labor Government has forged ahead, allowing businesses to be collateral and bear the brunt of the financial losses.

“The Opposition is calling for a review and further consultation with those on the ground to ensure a solution is delivered which avoids destroying small businesses and communities across the West Coast Bioregion.”

Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fishing Colin de Grussa said the Cook Labor Government’s bans continue to wreak havoc on Western Australian communities.

“Western Australia is in the midst of an ongoing pandemic of make-believe consultation under the Cook Labor Government,” Mr de Grussa said.

“From botched cultural heritage laws to native timber industry bans, shutting down live sheep exports, creating arbitrary marine parks and smashing our fishing industry, the Labor Government charges ahead like a runaway train, destroying communities up and down the State.