First stop

First stop

Newly-appointed Federal Agriculture Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie, discussed the importance of a sustainable and a profitable fishing industry during her first meeting with Lakes Entrance Fishing Co-operative (LEFCOL) representatives on Monday at Bullock Island.

Lakes Entrance-based MP, Darren Chester, invited Senator McKenzie to the region as part of her first visit to Gippsland since being sworn in as Australia’s first female Minister for Agriculture last week.

Throughout the morning, she met with some of the local leaders in the fishing, horticulture, agriculture and timber industries and attended a round table meeting with farmer and local government representatives to discuss challenges, issues and opportunities facing agriculture in Gippsland.

“Lakes Entrance is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Victoria and has a proud commercial fishing tradition going back more than a century,” Mr Chester said.

“It is important for the new minister to get a first-hand appreciation of the issues facing local fishermen and how governments can best support the industry to flourish and grow into the future.

“LEFCOL has some innovative plans to improve the long-term viability of the industry, starting with a new cafe at Bullock Island to give visitors the experience of viewing the boats unloading and eating fresh seafood.

“We have a world-class resource which is highly regulated to achieve good environmental outcomes, but it’s important that governments don’t keep adding to the cost structure of fishing businesses.

“Fishermen need to be able to make a sustainable profit so they can keep investing in their boats and new equipment and providing Australians with high quality seafood.”

Mr Chester recently opened a Lakes Entrance office for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), moving staff closer to their key stakeholders and fishing communities.

“Having AFMA staff in the region helps to make sure the regulators understand the real-life impact of the rules that are put in place and allows for direct feedback on contentiousness issues if they arise,” Mr Chester said.

PICTURED: Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, and Federal Agriculture Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie, visited Lakes Entrance on Monday morning with the newly-appointed Minister getting a feel for local industry. PICTURED: Mr Chester and Senator McKenzie with local fishermen, Andy Watts and Mark Le Maitre.