Votes versus food security

27th November 2015

In 2010, under a Labor Government, Fisheries Victoria engaged celebrity chef Neil Perry from the Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne to narrate a video (screen shots to the left) called “SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD”.  The video explained the sustainability, science and cultural importance of the 150 year old commercial net fishery in Port Phillip Bay as well as demonstrating Chef Perry’s cooking suggestions for King George Whiting and Calamari.

However, by November this year the Liberal Party, Labor Party and even the National Party voted in Victorian State parliament to ban all commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay.  Perversely only the Greens, headed by Greg Barber, opposed the ban.  The Victorian Government’s plan is to close the small commercial fishery and create a recreational fishing haven.  This has nothing to do with sustainability, nor is the decision based on science.

Mum and Dads want to feed their kids fresh, sustainable, seafood – and the Port Phillip Bay decision has seen the Government remove this choice, to discontinue the supply of seafood to consumers.  Who will now provide the seafood we all want to buy?  Governments are forcing out those willing to work the long and hard hours to provide us food.  It becomes difficult to see how investment can be encouraged when Governments create such uncertainty for the Australian seafood industry.

The Port Phillip Bay decision contributes to Australia’s increasing country risk and discourages investment in the fishing industry.  Country risk refers to the degree to which political unrest and uncertainty affects business in a particular country.

In July the Australian newspaper reported that a survey of 301 major companies, each turning over more than US$1b, found that 97% had experienced issues with the rule of law (country risk) in the past five years.  The article sighted the Victorian Government’s decision to cancel East-West link.  The companies surveyed reported more problems with the rule of law in Australia than anywhere else except China.

At the same time other countries are investing in food security.  The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2014 China was importing A$7.3b of food from Australia.  The Journal goes on to report that China invested A$632m into the Australian agriculture sector in 2014, double the investment in 2013.

Australian fisheries are world renowned for their management but Tom Bibby, SETFIA’s Chairman explained, “Commonwealth Fisheries Minister Ruston has challenged industry to instil community pride in the Australian fishing industry.  We accept her challenge and will continue to work hard on reducing our environmental impact and on getting the message about the health benefits, taste, sustainability and source of food that commercial fishing provides”.

SETFIA is calling on both sides of politics to not use fisheries as a political football to buy votes, to instead to find a balance between recreational and commercial catch, to consider food security and to be consistent in their policies.   Mr Bibby concluded that he hoped the Victorian Government, “picks a balanced policy that considers all Australia’s interests and sticks to it”.