This environment is home to some of the world’s finest seafood including premium quality western rock lobsters, wild-caught prawns and scallops, abalone from temperate waters and tropical and temperate water finfish. Western Australia also produces the globally renowned South Sea pearls.
Commercial and recreational fishing contributes about $1.5 billion to the Western Australian economy each year, with production from commercial fisheries and aquaculture valued at $530 million in 2018-19.
In 2018-19 Western Australia’s fisheries exports were worth $543.2 million and the most valuable seafood export is Western rock lobster, worth $470.2 million in 2018-19.
In 2019, Recfishwest released a report which showed 650 000 Western Australians participate in recreational fishing every year, with $2.4 billion spent annually on fishing-related activities, including fishing trips, travel, fishing gear and boat fishing costs. Within this, $1.8 billion is spent by Western Australians on fishing trips alone.
Sustainable development of resources
The Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is responsible for conserving, sustainably developing and sharing the use of WA’s aquatic resources and ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations.
Ecologically Sustainable Development is a key focus and involves a reporting process that continually ensures fish stocks are in a healthy condition, while considering the social and economic values of fisheries. This highlights the strong and co-operative management by DPIRD and WA’s fishing industry. In addition, all wild-harvest fisheries must be assessed and certified under the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 before their product can be exported.
The total value of Western Australia’s commercial fisheries and aquaculture production (including pearling) in 2017-18 was $633 million with pearling contributing $52 million and aquaculture $27 million.
The WA Government has invested in marine fish and hatchery development and in Aquaculture Development Zones. The way has also been cleared for the abalone aquaculture sector to thrive through policy development. The Western Australian aquaculture sector is now showing signs of accelerated growth through the establishment of Aquaculture Development Zones – proving to be an effective stimulus for development.
Western Australia is well-placed to meet growing global demand for marine finfish and shellfish species such as yellowtail kingfish and rock oysters. Production of temperate marine finfish species, in particular, is expected to grow substantially in Western Australia over the next decade. WA’s competitive advantages include large areas of pristine-quality coastal waters, high-level biosecurity afforded by its isolation, technological improvements that enable large-scale offshore aquaculture in more exposed waters, world class applied research, facilities and staff, scientific and engineering capabilities and political and economic stability.
To build on DPIRD’s strong record in fisheries management, it has a program to encourage fisheries to gain independent third-party certification for sustainability. All commercial fisheries have been given the opportunity to achieve certification through the highly-regarded London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Nine Western Australian fisheries have now been certified by the MSC, including Western rock lobster which was the first fishery ever to receive MSC certification in 2000. Recreational crabbing in the Peel Harvey Estuary is the only recreational fishery in the world to achieve MSC certification. The Abrolhos Islands Scallop Fishery is currently progressing through the MSC process, which will be the tenth fishery to achieve MSC certification.
Seafood buyers from around the globe can be assured that Western Australian seafood comes not only from the clean ocean waters, but from fisheries that are well-managed today, and will continue to be well-managed into the future.
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