Tourism Council WA is helping charter operators affected by the allocation of demersal tags by launching an online webinar to provide legal advice to licence holders and discuss tourism impacts in the region. A portion of Fishing Tour Operator Licence holders in the West Coast Zone are suffering after the State Government announced 6000 tags would be allocated to 21 out of 99 licence holders in the region. Licence holders who don’t have tags cannot fish for demersal species and will lose business. On Friday, the Tourism Council WA will hold an online webinar with licence holders after commissioning Bailiwick Legal to provide legal advice and assist members determine what legal action they can take. The council hopes to address the impacts on tourism, operators and jobs with Fisheries Minister Don Punch, who was invited to the meeting. When visiting Geraldton this week, Mr Punch said about 45 per cent of licence holders had never fished demersal fish, but understood some operators did miss out. “I certainly appreciate the difficulties that people are having, but my position simply is there are not enough fish to go around,” he said. Mr Punch said he was following the scientific recommendation of a 50 per cent cut to demersal fishing in the West Coast Zone. “People have been fishing well over the pre-existing benchmarks, so for some sectors, that has meant that they had to come down a long way to meet the new required benchmarks,” he said. Eco Abrolhos is one of the largest operators in the region and didn’t receive tags. Owner Jay Cox said although he diversified more than 14 years ago, he was being punished for it now. ”It cost us millions and millions of dollars to diversify to do what we do now. Instead of taking 10kg per person, we’d be lucky to take one kg per person on board the boat,” he said. “We cut our catch rates down by nine times and you’d think they’d be looking at us going well, that’s what we want everybody to do.” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said the State Government should hold off implementing the tag system until the $2.5 million voluntary commercial fishing buy-back scheme potentially makes more fish available to be allocated to both the charter and recreational sectors. “A six-month delay won’t impact on stock sustainability and it may just save dozens of family businesses from shutting down,” he said.