October 12, 2012
Environmental groups are wary of a plan launched by the state government to independently certify Western Australian fisheries as sustainable.
The Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based accreditation organisation, will aim to certify all the state’s commercial fisheries in an attempt to ensure long-term security for the industry.
State Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said the program would benefit everybody, and was a great way to capitalise on demand from retail markets for sustainably-sourced fish.
“So there’s two reasons [for the program] – one to give people comfort that we are looking after our fisheries sustainably, and two to give a commercial advantage to our fishing industry,” Mr Moore told Inkwire.
Western Australian Fishing Industry Council CEO Guy Leyland says a labeling system will allow consumers to see for themselves whether the products they buy have been sustainably sourced.
“This will provide assurances that seafood products from fisheries certified by the MSC as meeting the MSC standard come from sustainable and well managed fisheries,” Mr Leyland said.
The launch of the program came after supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths announced long-term plans were to only purchase seafood that had been caught sustainably.
The Conservation Council of Western Australia’s Tim Nicol welcomes the announcement, but remains skeptical over how effective the program will be.
“Our hope is that it will increase transparency and that the industry will finally deal with long term issues around by-catch of threatened species,” Mr Nicol said.
Mr Moore recognises there is a lot of hard work to be done and that there are likely to be fisheries which will fail to gain accreditation, but says a Fishery Improvement Program is available to those fisheries that cannot achieve certification.
“I don’t deny it’s going to be hard in respect to some fisheries but the incentive is there to achieve this particular level of performance,” he said.
Both Mr Moore and Mr Leyland have publicly backed the notion that industry-wide sustainability accreditation would remove the need for marine parks to exist, and this is a critical detail slammed by environmentalists.
Mr Nicol insists marine parks play a vital role.
“Marine sanctuaries serve a different purpose to sustainable fisheries, they are for protecting marine life for future generations,” he said.
Mr Moore said the new program was “not about appeasing the green groups”.
“This is about saying to green groups that these fisheries are being properly managed and you don’t therefore need hundreds of square miles of marine parks …,” he said.
“Now that is part of the reason for doing this.”
Mr Nicol said that even partners of the MSC had said marine parks must co-exist with sustainable management.
“WWF, a major supporter and founding partner of MSC, said explicitly that marine sanctuaries were still vital for preserving our marine life and ocean biodiversity despite moves for a more sustainable fishing industry,” he said.
Photos: Liam Roscic.