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Industry raises concerns over new solar salt and mining projects’ impacts on sustainable fishing

Alexander ScottPilbara News
A Brown Dog Fishing Co. vessel.
Camera IconA Brown Dog Fishing Co. vessel. Credit: Facebook/Facebook

A leading commercial fishing operator has raised concerns over the impact new resources projects could have on a “backbone” species of the Pilbara fishing food chain.

The pristine waters of the Pilbara are known for producing quality fish species including the Blue Spot Emperor, however, a slew of new solar salt projects in the species’ breeding grounds and nursery areas have local fishing operators concerned over the sustainability of their industry.

Brown Dog Fishing Co. managing director Doug Gibson said the Blue Spot Emperor — a backbone of the local fishing industry — spends its early life in shallow waters near the coast, and a slew of new projects threatened their habitat.

“There’s all these solar salt projects slated for development and they’re all going, ‘we’ll just destroy 150 hectares of this nearshore coastal habitat, then we’ll go and dredge a channel and dump the spoil from our channel here’,” he said.

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“And that stuff, potentially, is incrementally chipping away at the amount of habitat that’s available for these juvenile blue spot to live in.”

Mr Gibson said the industry had a major issue of its nursery grounds being under constant threat of industrial development.

“It’s gonna get to the point where the Pilbara is seen as Australia’s strategic fish supplier, but if we don’t look after it, we’re gonna lose it,” he said.

However, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development aquatic resource management director Nathan Harrison said monitoring by DPIRD indicated there was no direct sustainability concerns for key fish resources along the Pilbara coast.

“However, there is the potential for cumulative impacts on fisheries resources associated with industrial development,” he said.

“DPIRD has an important role in providing advice and guidance on impacts to fisheries from development proposals such as the solar salt proposals in the Pilbara.

“As these can impact sensitive nearshore habitats, DPIRD is continuing to engage with project representatives on how potential impacts can be addressed with a focus on the proposed monitoring requirements associated with environmental approvals.”

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