Commercial fishing has a long history in the North-West, but Montagu fisherman Craig Garland’s business almost came to an end as relocated seal numbers swelled to destructive levels.
On Friday, Mr Garland said there were now so many seals in the waterway that he had seen the animals following boats from bay to bay along the coast, “like the pied piper”.
On Thursday, Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the government would put an end to the North-West seal relocations by Christmas.
While many groups welcomed the decision overall, one has called for compensation for the commercial fishers who have lost thousands of dollars in equipment and income.
Mr Garland said seals had now saturated the waters and were appearing in places that he had never before seen them in the past.
“We’ve had this issue for 20-odd years – it was started without consulting us and when we became aware of it happening, we raised our voices and were told it was only temporary,” he said.
“They’re going to stop it at Christmas, that’s great news for a start, but when, if, our fishery returns to what it was is anyone’s guess.”
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party acting chairman Ken Orr said the ban was a step in the right direction, but said it should have been instated earlier.
“The damage has already been done and in our view, there should be compensation paid to those commercial fishers who have lost so much gear and so much of their livelihood.”
Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan said he would “never advocate for a seal cull” and looked forward to learning about the proposed updated framework.