New air freight and funding support measures boost Australian seafood
Australia’s Federal and State governments have taken measures to support the fishing industry that has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Image: WAFIC

New air freight and funding support measures boost Australian seafood

Australia’s Federal Government has also announced a funding package to support air freight to a number of high-value export markets – including the Chinese and Japanese markets that have been virtually dormant for the last few months.

The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) has welcomed the additional good news of the Western Australian State Government confirming that it will waive pen fees for commercial fishing boats, waive boat registration and mooring fees for commercial fishing boats, and waive a range licensing fees, with the caveat that a request for deferral of access fees is still pending cabinet decision.

Measures at both Federal and State level have been taken to support Australia’s fishing industry. Image: SETFIA

‘Pen fees and licence fees are a major cost to fishing operations, so the waiver of these fees will provide a huge boost for local fisheries,’ a WAFIC spokesman said.

The new $110 million air freight initiative backs Australia’s agricultural and fisheries sectors regain access to high-quality overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment.

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism will initially focus on the key markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, with four key departure hubs: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

WAFIC’s spokesman reports that WA’s western rock lobster exporters are already seeing demand picking up and the new airfreight services will help them fill some of the orders for more than 25 tonnes of lobster each week.

Assistant Fisheries Minister Duniam also announced that $10m, or two-thirds of all levies collected by the Australian Government for the management of Commonwealth fisheries, will be waived.

The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA), Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association (SPFIA) and Southern Shark Industry Alliance (SSIA) have welcomed the Government’s support during this challenging time.

The three fisheries represented by these three associations supply more than 30,000 tonnes of finfish into South-East Australia and Tasmania – the largest supply of local wild-caught fresh fish into Australia.

According to SETFIA EO Simon Boag, these three fisheries pay around $6.8m a year to the Federal Government.  This announcement means that around $4.5m of this will not be collected or refunded in a show of direct support for the industry.

‘I have thanked the Assistant Minister for the Government’s support of our industry,’ he said.
‘It’s a game changer. During our conversation we stressed the importance of keeping fishmongers, food markets and fish and chip shops open because without them Australians will have to turn to imported fish supporting other countries. We believe he heard us.’

He commented that more than ever there is a need for Australia to feed itself and not rely on imported seafood.

‘We have had positive conversations with supermarkets, and we hope that they will focus on the true value of purchasing a wider range of fresh wild-caught Australia fish,’ Simon Boag said.

‘Increased demand for red meat has seen prices skyrocket – there has never been a better time to eat fresh healthy Australian wild-caught fish because it remains fantastic value. Supermarkets and fishmongers do a great job of labelling fish so it is easy to find fish that was caught in Australia. This supports Australian fishermen.’