Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), the national peak-body representing the Australian seafood industry, has announced a national crisis-meeting will be held in Western Australia next month to discuss the ongoing threats to resource access and property rights occurring across the nation.
"Surety of resource access is being eroded right across the Australia," SIA CEO Jane Lovell said.
"As an industry we are currently facing serious threats to our ability to access and sustainably utilise our oceans in the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia, there are threats looming in Queensland and Tasmania, while South Australia and New South Wales have recently been through significant reform processes.
"As such, have called on the industry to come together for our 'Tipping Point' meeting on February, 6 in Fremantle where we will discuss strategies to address this constant erosion of our access, and the devaluation and destabilisation of our industry.
"If governments want to shut down our waters to commercial fishing, where do they expect people to get their seafood?
"Australia has some of the best managed fisheries in the world. We should be encouraged to continue to sustainably harvest seafood, rather than be faced with the continual closure of waters. Currently 70 per cent of seafood eaten in Australia is imported, as a community are we happy for this to be 100 per cent?
"We are fast approaching a tipping point in terms of the community's confidence to work in and invest in our industry. If we continue down this path it will have dire consequences Australia's commercial seafood industry and there would be a sizable reduction in the amount of locally-caught seafood available. We are fairly sure this is not what the community wants, especially as Australia are recognised as one of the most sustainable seafood producing nations in the world.
"Australia's professional fishers adhere to extremely strict monitoring and regulations to ensure we maintain healthy stocks. There are strict management plans, quotas and licences in place which dictated how much can be caught, where it can be caught and when it can be caught. We don't, we can't and we wouldn't want to just go out and catch as much as we possibly can. While our aquaculturalists also adhere to strict regulations and environmental protections. We understand the 'average Joe' may not be aware of this, but surely our governments are aware of the rigour of the regulations they have put in place.
"As professional fishers, we have a responsibility to contribute to the global food task, and our governments have a responsibility to help us do that. This requires leadership, not popularist policies and unfounded lock-outs designed to secure votes or increase government revenue.
"Let us be clear, these resources access threats have not come about as a result of a depletion in fish-stocks. In fact, for the fifth consecutive year Australia's Commonwealth-managed fisheries have been listed as not subject to overfishing by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. This is something our wild-catch fishers are very proud of, and is unprecedented internationally.
"In addition, the footprint of Australia's trawlers has been found to be one of the smallest in the world. Coupled with our aquaculture sector – who provide fresh, high-quality seafood, year-round – Australian seafood is one of the best managed and most sustainable protein sources in the world.
"As fishers, our priority is the environment, if there was cause for us to step away from the harvest of a particular species, then we would listen. We advocate the health, sustainability and future of our ocean and land based aquaculture activities. It's our livelihood and the future livelihood of generations to come."