Opinion: Cray quota unpalatable

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Increasing the quota for professional rock lobster fishermen sounds like a win for the local consumer, but at what cost?
Camera IconIncreasing the quota for professional rock lobster fishermen sounds like a win for the local consumer, but at what cost? Credit: WA Fishing Industry Council

I grew up around the local fishing industry.

I was introduced to the beautiful Abrolhos Islands, and life around it.

For me, fish, crayfish and prawns have always been available.

In a way, it could be viewed as somewhat privileged.

I do eat seafood, but I could live without it, so, when I became aware of the latest bunfight between the State Government and the rock lobster industry, it got me thinking.

Apparently, the State Government believes the price of crayfish within WA is unacceptable.

In an attempt to rectify this, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly has proposed the Government increase the quota for professional fishermen, and then take 20 per cent of their total catch from them in an attempt to even out the status quo.

I suspect this 20 per cent would be sold locally and, hopefully, would bring down the price and make the crustacean more available to the average punter.

Now, this does sound like it could be a win for the local consumer, but at what cost?

Admittedly, I think the price to eat rock lobster at Geraldton eateries does seem a bit expensive but, as I have mentioned, they are not actually on my favourite food list.

I enjoy them every now and again, but the delicacy does fall well behind pasta, steak and the lamb roast — not really something I constantly crave for.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

According to The Weekend West columnist Paul Murray: “No one in their right mind could argue that they are a staple of life”.

I don’t think rock lobster is really part of the group: milk, eggs, meat and veg. Yes, I agree with the minister they are a natural resource that belongs to all West Australians, but does that mean the resource should be squandered?

You know, every West Australian has the opportunity to obtain an amateur licence and catch their own feed.

I’m suggesting maybe the State Government is trying to fix something that is not broken.

By trying to appease a few seafood lovers, is the minister creating friction with an industry that is relatively compliant with already successful sustainable measures?

I will always support primary producers. Farmers and fisherman are the backbone of our local economy and we can’t afford to have their situations jeopardised.

Over the past decade, the rock lobster-fishing industry has been put through the wringer.

Today, there is quite a different structure.

This sustainably successful model seems to be flourishing, with the industry injecting close to $500 million into the WA economy.

This has been achieved through the Government and industry peak body working together for a mutually successful outcome.

This recent idea reeks of bureaucratic standover tactics that don’t sit easy with me.

I know my opinion may polarise readers, but it’s not so much about the issue, it is the process that has got my goat.

Minister Kelly, please do not go down the precarious route of slapping the hand that feeds you.

Peter Fiorenza is the host of SHL Sunday Radio MAMA 10am-noon. Returning soon.

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