State Government’s $13.5 million Cockburn Sound science commitment welcome but overdue

Recfishwest cautiously welcomed last week’s announcement by Ports Minister Rita Saffioti about the State Government investing $13.5 million in a multi-year marine science research program focusing on Cockburn Sound.

Such a commitment is several years overdue and should have happened in the first place to inform any recommendation about the best location for a new port.

Safe and accessible, Cockburn Sound provides a great fishing experience.

Instead, this investment will answer questions the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) are likely to ask when an application for a new port in Cockburn Sound is submitted in a few years’ time.

In August last year, Recfishwest expressed “bitter disappointment” at the State Government’s decision to accept the Westport Taskforce’s flawed recommendation to build a new port in the Sound near Anketell Road.

“I and the Recfishwest Board met with the Ports and Fisheries Ministers in December to seek answers around serious questions we and the fishing community had about the impact a new port would have on fish stocks, fish habitats and fishing experiences,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said.

These questions included:

  • What impact will a new port have on fishing experiences, fishing safety and fishing access?
  • How will impacts on the environment, fish stocks and fishing experiences be avoided, minimized and mitigated?
  • What impact will dredge plumes, changes in circulation patterns and disturbed chemicals in the sediment have on fish stocks and seagrass distribution?
  • What impact will the increase in vessel traffic have on snapper aggregations and spawning success?
  • Is the current health of Cockburn Sound the appropriate baseline to use when assessing potential developments?

“At the time we received assurances our questions would be addressed,” Dr Rowland said.

“So, if the research program announced last week doesn’t finally tell us what the impacts of a new port on Cockburn Sound’s fish and fishing experiences are likely to be, it will speak volumes about how the Government truly values recreational fishers and the environment of Cockburn Sound.”

The Recfishwest Board at a meeting with Peter Tinley and Alannah MacTiernan, impressing on the State Government the importance of Cockburn Sound for fishers.

Cockburn Sound — a priceless place in the community’s heart

While the details of the science program announced last week are not yet publicly available, Recfishwest will closely monitor the research progress and help collect and provide data to answer our questions where required.

“We will continue to hold the Government to account and make sure we finally get the answers to questions we have been asking since the Westport process started in 2017,” Dr Rowland said.

“The Sound is simply too precious to us and the Perth fishing community for us to do anything less.

“It is special for many reasons, including the fact that the Sound is home to the largest spawning aggregation of pink snapper in the West Coast Bioregion.

“The recfishing community’s love for the Sound is also evident by the overwhelming popularity of the community’s Snapper Guardians program.”

Check this out! Amazing underwater footage of a spawning pink snapper school in Cockburn Sound

Snapper Guardians boost

Recfishwest have noted there was some good news in last week’s announcement that suggests the Government may be listening to the community.

“This includes a commitment to enhance the Snapper Guardians and Seeds for Snapper programs as well as research into community social values of the Sound,” Dr Rowland said.

“This is a welcome change from the cold economic-driven focus that had previously dominated the Westport process.

“We look forward to seeing the finer details of all the planned science and we will use all the influence at our disposal to continue to hold the Government to account over its plans for a new port in one of our most-prized fishing locations.

“This is because we and the community will always fight to protect the Sound – something that we will not stop in ramming home. Until we understand the impact a new port will have on the things we value, we have no alternative but to oppose a new container port in Cockburn Sound.”

Cockburn Sound is an extremely special place for the metro recfishing community.

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