Western Australian Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said claims that recent hikes in fish prices were escalating because of the State Government’s efforts to sustain fish stocks were ‘way off the mark’.
Mr Ford said attempts by some parts of the fishing industry sector to blame recent hikes in fish prices on Government initiatives to ensure fishing remained sustainable showed that they were ignoring the real reasons for price increases.
The Minister said new Government initiatives would not be implemented until next month.
Mr Ford also said that Department of Fisheries catch records for the past two years showed there had been an increase in pink snapper catches and only a slight decrease in dhufish catch.
“So, supply has not really changed and any price hikes for fish has nothing to do with any Government initiatives because these initiatives haven’t even been implemented yet,” he said.
“The real reason for price increases has to do with other factors such as escalating demand for these fish, as well as increased production costs such as fuel costs.
“The simple fact remains that there are too many people and not enough fish and that’s why the WA Government has to implement new management initiatives to ensure the sustainability of our fish for the future.
“Dhufish and snapper have been priced out of the reach of most Western Australians for some time so that’s a clear sign that sustainability of these fish is under pressure.
“The unfortunate truth is that this pressure on our fish stocks is vindication that doing nothing is not an option. The Carpenter Government is taking sustainability seriously and is prepared to make the tough calls.
“The initiatives announced last month will help a great deal in ensuring the survival of these iconic fish species, which will not only stabilise fish stocks but also stabilise prices for consumers in the future.
“The unacceptable alternative is that we don’t take any action, fish stocks collapse and then these fish will just disappear. That would be a tragedy.”
Last month, the Minister announced a fishing management package that included creating the Metropolitan Fishing Zone to exclude all commercial line and gill-netting from next month.
Mr Ford rejected claims that the Metropolitan Fishing Zone would exacerbate fish prices and said there was no justification for wholesalers and retailers to introduce drastic price increases.
“The vast majority of demersal scalefish sold in WA are sourced from the State’s northern fisheries. Because of this small proportion of the commercial catch from the Metropolitan Fishing Zone, there should be very little impact on market prices for these species,” he said.
New research from the fishing management package showed that stocks of key demersal scalefish such as dhufish and pink snapper were at risk of collapsing if new management action was not taken.
For immediate action, interim fishing rules would be phased in as of next month. These measures would be in place until next year when a new and effective long-term management strategy for recreational fishing of demersal scalefish along the West Coast Bioregion was determined. The West Coast Bioregion was between Zuytdorp Cliffs, near Kalbarri, and Black Point, near Augusta.
Mr Ford also released a discussion paper last month that encouraged the community to express its views about how the future management strategy should be developed.
Submissions for the discussion paper close on November 16 and public meetings will be held in various centres this month between Bunbury and Geraldton to help people make their submissions.
The first meeting will be held at the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre, Hillarys, on Tuesday, October 9, from 5pm to 7pm.
Minister's office - 9213 7200