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

Déjà vu for WA fishers as State Government get their hooks into licence fees… again

Fast facts:

  • Second fishing licence fee increase in 12 months;
  • Recfishwest was not consulted; and
  • Recfishwest will be pushing hard to ensure every cent of the additional money delivers maximum benefit to the fishing community.

Despite promising no surprises in this year’s budget, recreational fishers will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they come to renew their fishing licences after another $5 increase in the cost of each of the fishing licences was announced.

This is the second $5 rise in fishing licence fees in the past 12 months.

Recfishwest do not support these increases, we were not consulted about them, we don’t believe they are necessary and we have not been advised how the additional money will be used.

Recfishwest Acting Chief Executive Officer Leyland Campbell said the State Government have made the wrong decision.

“If revenue is a genuine concern to Government, we believe there are far better options to assist with the cost of managing recreational fishing, such as addressing known inefficiencies in the current recreational fishing budget, reviewing the entire licence framework, or investing in projects to increase participation rates in licenced fisheries,” he said.

“Increasing recreational fishing licence fees should not be the first option considered.  Not many businesses would survive if they simply looked to raise prices every time they wanted more money.”

Recfishwest understand there are significant costs involved in managing recreational fishing. However, Leyland said fishers already contribute more than their fair share towards the cost of managing recreational fishing through $8 million in licence fees they currently provide the government every year.

“I don’t know of any other group that contributes so much towards managing their recreational activity and unfortunately as costs have gone up, the service that is being provided has gone down,” he said.

In the past 12 months recreational fishing priority projects have been delayed, reviews of important recreational fisheries have stalled, management changes to improve fishing are not being progressed and now when someone buys a fishing licence they are not provided with a rule book to help them understand what they are and are not allowed to do.

“Any increase in fees should be accompanied by an equivalent increase in service,” Leyland said.

“This did not happen last time the government raised fees and there is no reason to believe service will improve with the new fee increases.”

Recfishwest fears participation rates could even fall as many people are now likely to think twice about whether they can afford to go fishing or worse, they may choose to fish without a licence placing them in danger of prosecution.

Recfishwest will be pushing hard to ensure every cent of the additional $1 million the Government will receive from this increase, plus the additional $1 million they are already receiving from last year’s fee increase is accounted for and delivers maximum benefit to the fishing community.

Although the Minister has promised there will be no more increases in licence fees during this term of Government this promise will be of no comfort to fishers who were already paying the highest recreational fishing fees in the country.

New Pricing for recreational fishing licences below:

Fishing from boat (State-wide) $35 + $5 = $40

Rock Lobster  $45 + $5 = $50

Sout West freshwater angling $45 + $5 = $50

Net fishing (haul, set, throw) $45 + $5 = $50

Abalone $45 + $5 = $50

Marron $45 + $5 = $50

Sign the petition to save Canal Rocks boat ramp

Click HERE to sign the petition to save Canal Rocks boat ramp!

The recreational fishing community has been angered over the past few weeks as plans to close an important boat ramp in the South West region became apparent.

Canal Rocks Boat Ramp, near Yallingup, has provided fishers access to important local fishing spots for decades. Recently, however, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) is considering closing the ramp, citing safety concerns.

This has been met with anger and frustration from both local and visiting fishers who are set to lose access to one of the South-West’s most loved aquatic playgrounds.

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell who spoke at the rally to hundreds of concerned locals , said the peak body is disappointed not to have been consulted and that all options to keep the ramp open are not being considered.

”We will advocate for the ramp to remain open as it is actually one of the safest ramps in the region and DBCA claims about safety simply don’t add up.”

“The Department of Biodiversity, Conservations and Attractions claim this ramp doesn’t meet Australian Standards (exposure to waves greater than 20cm) however, the standards they are choosing to apply are for boat ramps within marinas, not oceanic ramps. If the government applied this standard to all oceanic boat ramps in Western Australia then over 90% of these ramps would be closed. This is simply not acceptable and cannot go unchallenged.”

“While Recfishwest has a strong track record in advocating for fishing safety, we recognise people must take personal responsibility. It is not the Government’s role to protect the community from every conceivable risk, but it is the Governement’s role to provide the basic community infrastructure required to support our culture and lifestyle,” Mr Campbell said.

“The fishing public of Western Australia accept the risks associated with operating a vessel anywhere in our state, including using discretion to assess any ramp for a safe launch and retrieve.”

Recfishwest believe access to high-quality experiences, including fishing, are paramount to the West Australian lifestyle and must be maintained.

Local fisher Glenn Wakelam can’t believe the ramp is being considered for closure.

“This is such a popular ramp during the summer months. On a nice day, it is not unusual to find over 20 trailers in the carpark,” he said.

“Canal Rocks Boat Ramp has been used by the public for decades and the wave height has not changed over that time.

“People aren’t stupid if the swell is too big, they don’t use the ramp.”

Recfishwest has written to the Environment Minister urging him to reconsider this decision but we need your help to ensure the message is heard loud and clear.

What can you do to help?

1. Sign the petition, HERE.
2. Contact your local MP, and tell them how important it is that we have recreational boating facilities around our great state. Whilst you may not launch at Canal Rocks, your local ramp could be next on the list.
3. Tell everyone you know. The more we can let decision makers know how important access to great fishing experiences is to us, the better our chances of a decision in our favour.

WA Needs More Fishing Heroes!

Our Purpose is to ensure Great Fishing Experiences for all in the WA community forever.
Our Commitment is to Protect, Promote and Develop Sustainable, Accessible, Enjoyable and Safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

Thanks to our current supporters, Recfishwest can continue the fight to keep fishing great in WA.

Our role is to: 
– Be your voice that would not otherwise be heard
– Be the voice of the fish that otherwise goes unheard or ignored
– Keep you informed of all thing affecting your fishing, 24/7; we believe you need to know!
– Strive to ensure you and your family return home safe after a day’s fishing
– Defend your fishing rights when your local fishing spot is under threat
– Fight when access to fishing areas is put at risk
– Roll up our sleeves and find a solution when no one else will.

Contribute to what we do and support us, become a member and let us do the hard yakka on your behalf.  We don’t make profits here at Recfishwest and we make sure all our resources go directly towards our action to protect, promote and develop our fishing environments and to keep you fishing.

To give you an idea of where your support helps us make fishing better:
• Stocking of important recreational fish species around WA, including Pink Snapper, Barramundi, Prawns, Mulloway and Freshwater Trout
• Development, design and deployment of Artificial Reefs in Western Australia
• Development of important fishing research and conservation programs
• Development of WA’s ‘Fish and Survive’ program, to ensure all fishers come home safe after a day’s fishing
• Delivery of WA’s only state-wide fishing clinic program to thousands of kids in both metro and regional areas

A strong membership base allows us to pursue matters that affect your fishing with added confidence knowing you’ve got our back, just like we’ve got yours!

For just 50c per week, you can help us protect and develop fishing experiences in Western Australia, for the community forever.

Fishing Services Remain Despite Amalgamation

As of July 1, 2017, the Western Australian Department of Fisheries’ time as a stand-alone agency came to an end, after its amalgamation with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Regional Development into what will now be known as the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). This change came about as part of the Government’s amalgamation plan, cutting the number of Government agencies from 41 to 25.

Although this brings to an end the last remaining stand-alone fisheries department in Australia, Recfishwest has been assured by the Minister that recreational fishers will see no loss of service for the pastime we all love.

As part of their election commitments to recreational fishing, the Government committed to continuing the funding of the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, which has provided benefits such as Artificial Reefs , FADs, stocking of species such as Mulloway, Barramundi and School Prawns as well as providing vital research into key recreational fishing species so as to better inform ongoing management measures.

The Government has also reassured its commitment to funding Recfishwest, to ensure that fishers have a strong connection to decision makers. Recreational fishing is an important part of our lifestyle and culture, and reports from throughout the state indicate that the quality of fishing experiences available is world class. Fishing provides well-documented health and wellbeing benefits as well as driving tourism in which boosts regional economies.

We are pleased to see the Government’s continued commitment to fishing in this great state.

Recfishwest looks forward to working with DPIRD to ensure that West Aussies continue to have safe, sustainable, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences and will continue to work to ensure that all current services to recreational fishing will remain.

More Places to Fish, More Fish to Catch

Cast a vote in the 2017 State Election – How your vote could affect your fishing

Recfishwest works tirelessly to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community. With the 2017 state election fast approaching Recfishwest is working to ensure fishers are given the acknowledgement and consideration they deserve.

While Recfishwest has no political affiliation and will never tell anyone how they should vote, we do represent hundreds of thousands of members of the voting public that access the community owned fish resources of Western Australia. With this in mind, we are committed to informing you about all commitments made by registered political parties that are likely to impact on your fishing experiences and let you decide for yourself.

As in previous elections, Recfishwest has provided all political parties with our election “Package for Better Fishing in WA” and have asked each party whether they support this package. In our March Broadcast, we will provide an update outlining the level of support each party has provided for this package and compare the fishing related commitments made by each political party.

Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” aligns with our vision of ensuring great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever and will protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the whole community.

It is worth noting that Recfishwest expects current funding levels for Recfishwest, the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and Fishability (formally Fishers with Disabilities) are maintained and as such have not included these in our election package, however, we will inform you if any party plans to change current funding levels for these.

In developing our “Package for Better Fishing in WA” Recfishwest acknowledge the state is currently bound by financial challenges and as such we have developed a fiscally responsible package that contains a number of policy commitments that would benefit fishing at zero cost to government.

The “Package for Better Fishing in WA” contains a number of aspirations and commitments to improve fishing experiences. These fall into two main categories:
• Creating more places to fish, and
• Providing more fish to catch.

More Places to Fish

1. Building the best fishing spots in Australia:

This will see artificial reefs for Albany, Perth, Carnarvon, Broome, Karratha, Port Hedland and Geraldton as well as FADs for Geraldton, Jurien Bay, Broome, Bunbury, Port Hedland, Carnarvon and Perth /Peel. (These reefs and FADs are in addition to artificial reefs in Esperance, Exmouth and Karratha and FADS in Kalbarri, Exmouth and Albany that have already been committed to through the RFIF)

2. Unlocking inland waters:

Recfishwest is calling for impoundments and urban waters to be opened for stocking of popular Australian Native freshwater fish such as Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Murray Cod and Aussie Bass.

3. Breathing life into waterways:

This involves the rehabilitation of shoreline vegetation and establishment of nursery habitats in selected estuaries including the Swan/Canning River.

mulloway reefs

More Fish to Catch

1. 10 million more fish to catch:

Recfishwest is calling for the stocking of 10 million fish including Australian Native Freshwater Fish, Barramundi, Mulloway, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Pink Snapper and Prawns as well as support for hatcheries used in breeding fish for these stocking programs.

2. A better deal for Peel:

The Peel-Harvey Stewardship Package Recfishwest has developed includes a fair and reasonable buyout of some commercial fishing licences, better recreational data collection and management changes to make your experiences fishing for Yellowfin Whiting and Blue Swimmer Crabs better.

3. A fair go for fishers:

Recfishwest is calling for policy changes to support fishing. These changes include:

a. Prioritising Lower West Coast Blue Swimmer Crabs for recreational and tourism purposes.
b. Prohibiting gillnets and beach-seine netting in proximity to coastal towns.
c. Rationalising current commercial fishing pressure in our estuaries.
d. Prioritising Salmon as a key sport fishing and tourism resource.

The commitments contained in Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” represent an investment of $15 million over four years. Considering the government receives $7.5 million dollars every year through recreational fishing licence fees and that fishing is one of the state’s most popular recreational activities contributing hundreds of millions to the WA economy every year the package Recfishwest has presented to all parties is more than reasonable.

Recfishwest is also in discussions with political parties who wish to make commitments to benefit recreational fishing in WA that fall outside of our “Package for Better Fishing in WA”.

To help ensure fishing receives a fair go this election, ask your local candidates to commit to providing you with more places to fish and more fish to catch.

Mandurah Crabs Receive World First Certification

RECFISHWEST is thrilled the Peel-Harvey Estuary’s iconic Blue Swimmer Crab fishery has been recognised as the world’s first internationally certified sustainable recreational and commercial combined fishery in June 2016. The certification awarded to both the Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association and Recfishwest, who were co-clients in the process, by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is an independent, international non-profit organisation established to safeguard healthy fish stocks.

The Peel-Harvey blue swimmer crab fishery is the most popular WA recreational fishery and also provides a livelihood for 10 commercial crab licence holders. Receiving this world-first certification ensures the longevity of this fishery and Recfishwest has been an enthusiastic supporter of the process, which protects and promotes sustainable and enjoyable fishing opportunities for the WA community.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said he was thrilled with the announcement but more we can’t rest on our morels and continued best-practised need to be maintained.

“This was never an exercise in achieving sustainability or gaining approval of being sustainable, this was an exercise in ensuring that correct management measures are maintained and improved if need be to ensure people can come to Mandurah with the confidence that their crabs are here to stay,” Dr Rowland said.

Mandurah Licensed Fisherman’s Association President Damien Bell and long-time crab fisher said seeing the certification finally come to fruition in line with good science with a sustainability outcome for both sectors is a win – win.

“We have been providing WA with some of the best, most sustainable seafood for many years and we wouldn’t be here today if we weren’t sustainable in our practices and I’m proud that the fishery has been recognised by an independent third party as sustainable” Mr Bell said.

It is the first recreational fishery in the world to gain recognition through the Marine Stewardship Council certification program. The MSC certification gives the community reassurance they can continue to do so for years to come at the same time as remaining compatible with the outstanding environmental values of the estuary.

For more on MSC and other certified fisheries, click here.