Westport: Putting dollars before Cockburn Sound’s marine environment?

Recfishwest is calling for an urgent review into how the Westport Taskforce determined its five options for the future of the WA freight trade.

The taskforce recently pumped out a series of e-newsletters outlining the five shortlisted options – all of which involved building a new container port in Cockburn Sound.

Having sifted through their rationale for these options, it appears to us that the taskforce has gone against the community’s wishes and placed “commercial viability” of any port development way above the environmental impact on the Sound.

The taskforce came up with its shortlist by rating each proposed development option against a series of criteria – each ranked by importance through what it called a ‘multi-criteria analysis’ (MCA).

Unfortunately for the environment, the weightings used in this process were severely biased towards economic considerations at the expense of environmental ones as the table below shows. In the MCA weightings, the marine environment was ranked way down the list of importance at fourth and the terrestrial environment even further down at equal fifth.

Yet, this flies in the face of a community survey the taskforce carried out, which showed the environment was the community’s number one concern with 55% of respondents listing the environment as their primary concern in any port development.

Furthermore, a Westport Taskforce report released in December 2018 (link below) rated Cockburn Sound with significantly more environmental and social value than Fremantle or Bunbury – both locations which figured as alternative locations for an expanded port in the Taskforce’s original list of options.

Find the Westport Taskforce Report from December 2018 here

In an attempt to justify this disregard of the Sound’s environmental values and the community’s wishes, the taskforce gave this statement, “It is critical that Westport delivers an outcome that is financially responsible for the State…the final option must be commercially viable and affordable for the long-term”.

In light of this statement, Recfishwest has two questions for the taskforce:

  • Why is the taskforce seemingly placing commercial viability above Cockburn Sound’s sustainability?
  • On whose authority can it say the pursuit of dollars should come above protecting the home to the largest spawning aggregations of pink snapper on the West Coast and numerous fish species (including blue swimmer crabs) that rely on the Sound’s seagrass meadows for their survival?

Governments can only make good decisions when they are provided with good advice and the weightings used in the taskforce’s shortlisting process make it impossible to provide the government with good advice.

The taskforce appears to have made an assumption on behalf of the State Government that prioritises economics over the environment. The Government needs to be clear about whether they agree with Recfishwest and the community that Cockburn Sound’s precious marine environment must come first or whether they back the taskforce’s view that “commercial viability” trumps sustainability.

There are many places a port can be built, however, there is only one Cockburn Sound, which provides great, accessible fishing experiences for tens of thousands of recreational fishers every year. When the environment takes a back seat, we all lose.

We are therefore calling for an immediate review of the weightings used in the MCA process and greater transparency about the criteria, scores and justifications contained in the process.

Cockburn Sound is under enormous cumulative pressure from a whole range of sources, but rest assured we will always fight to ensure the Sound is protected.

Click here read our position on Protecting Cockburn Sound and the Outer Harbour project

Continue Reading

May 22, 2024

The past, present and future of WA’s artificial reefs and Recfishwest’s role!

Ever wanted to know the history of how artificial reefs became so successful around the world and the future reefs set to make a splash off our coastline?   Mark Pagano (DPIRD’s Aquatic Resource Management…

Read More

May 14, 2024

Metro fishers urged to have their say on South Mole vehicle access

Cherished land-based fishing spot South Mole in Fremantle is now open to foot-traffic only after having been closed in mid-March.    Recfishwest has requested Fremantle Ports restore vehicle access to South Mole…

Read More

May 02, 2024

Recfishwest says “NO” to Offshore Wind Energy development in Geographe Bay’s critical fish habitat

Recfishwest has told the Commonwealth Government that important fish habitat and fishing grounds in Geographe Bay are strictly off limits for Offshore Wind Energy developments.  In February, the Commonwealth…

Read More

May 01, 2024

Five new cutting-edge FADs provide great new sportfishing opportunities for Port Hedland fishers!

Pilbara fishers have received a fantastic boost for offshore fishing options following the installation of five Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) off the Port Hedland coast. The new FADs were anchored in position…

Read More

April 23, 2024

How 200 metre setbacks could help protect access to cherished land-based fishing spots on our South Coast

There is nothing quite like standing on a south coast beach, rod in hand, facing the salt spray as the water laps at your feet. Dreams of mulloway, salmon, big tailor and skippy, or maybe a snapper often become a…

Read More

March 21, 2024

Recfishwest game for GAMEX 2024

Gamex is one of Australia’s biggest game fishing tournaments. Recfishwest Operations Officer Levi De Boni, a keen game angler himself, was one of our Fishing for Science team attending this year’s event. Here, he…

Read More