Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative boss disputes Kelly’s take

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton Fishermen's Co-Operative chief executive Matt Rutter at the company's live crayfish processing plant in Welshpool.
Camera IconGeraldton Fishermen's Co-Operative chief executive Matt Rutter at the company's live crayfish processing plant in Welshpool. Credit: The West Australian, Nic Ellis

WA Fisheries minister Dave Kelly says the previous Liberal-National Government’s local lobster program failed, in part because crayfishermen and their families were eating more than a quarter of the tagged catch.

Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative chief executive Matt Rutter said this was “not entirely true”.

“Fishermen are not allowed to take crayfish home but they have been giving it away to charity and to football clubs,” he said.

“Most of them would prefer to go home and have a good steak after catching crays all day.

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“The Government’s own regulations have made it difficult for fishermen to sell into the local market, and industry has been proposing changes to fix this problem for over 16 months.”

Mr Rutter’s comments came after Mr Kelly issued a statement that also gave three more reasons why domestic supply was difficult.

“Restaurants advised that continuity of supply and purchases from multiple suppliers were problematic,” Mr Kelly said.

“Most sales were from fishers’ homes or ... off a fishing boat, raising issues of public accessibility; and Facebook pages established to make the lobster available to the public were ineffectual.”

The Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry has invited Mr Kelly to visit Geraldton this week, which would be his first appearance in a crayfishing community since announcing proposed policy changes if he accepts.

“This is what the industry thought was going to happen after they had the closed-door discussion,” Mr Rutter said.

“The key is that the industry absolutely supports everything that the Government wants but we need to sit down and work out how to do that,” he said.

“We are a positive industry and we want to engage with Government and we want to make this wonderful product available, but nationalising the industry is in no way going to achieve that,” he said.

Mr Rutter was referring to the Government’s proposal to retain 17 per cent of crayfishing licences for itself after increasing the annual quota.

“We just need more time to work out how we are going to do it, and we need to engage in consultation,” Mr Rutter said.

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