The rock lobster industry in Dongara-Denison is one of the world’s few sustainable ‘wild’ fisheries.
Developed over 60 years, it is worth many millions of dollars to the local community and the State, with more than 611 boats operating. It also forms an important part of the local tourism sector.
So it was with these important contributions in mind that the oil and gas industry approached the rock lobster industry before it increased its activity off the coast of Dongara.
Dongara Professional Fisherman’s Association president Gary Parker said local fishermen were initially suspicious of the oil and gas players.
And while a healthy scepticism remained, he said the local fishing industry was generally pleased with the communication flow between the two industries.
Bass Industries managing director George Bass was approached by Roc Oil to assist with some of the first seismic exploration following the Perth Basin’s renaissance, and has been applying his local knowledge to the task.
Mr Bass said two of the six boats in his fleet were used for seismic exploration and that most of his work was with Roc Oil.
“We don’t have a set contract with Roc Oil, but we’ve given them services and they seem to keep coming back and seem happy with local industry,” he told WA Business News. “At different times we’ve employed up to 10 extra people for this activity and they’ve always been local.”
Mr Bass said the dedicated ‘oil and gas’ vessels were sometimes used for 24 hour cover during the time the seismic exploration was undertaken.
“We escort the seismic ship and set up protection zones. We are also an emergency stand-by vessel and they employ us to monitor whale activity. They will tell us to follow a pod of whales to make sure that they don’t get too close,” he said.
“We’ve been called out to do medivac with some of the seismic vessels. We’ve built up a reputation as being reliable and we are good at it. Some of the seismic companies employ us on top of what we are doing.”
However, Mr Bass said there remained some scepticism in the local fishing industry because of the nature of the oil and gas industry.
But he said this was healthy and the oil and gas industry seemed particularly conscious of the impact it was having on local industry.
“I think there is still [some scepticism in the local fishing industry] because it is the oil industry, but there has been continuous information to the rock lobster industry and they are well informed of any activity that takes place,” he said.
“My core industry is fishing and I’m a fisherman who would like to leave the industry in the same way that I found it so that it is there for future generations.”
Several other local businesses also have reported new work opportunities and increased staff requirement to meet demand.
Civil works and plant hire firm Lenane Holdings proprietor, Allan Lenane, said his company had worked on most of the onshore oil and gas fields including Hovea, Jingemia and Eremia.
“We are directly involved in the seismic work itself as we supply some of the equipment,” he said.
“I’m anticipating some good increase in activity as a result of the seismic work in the event that they get some more targets.”
Mr Lenane has employed five extra staff in response to the increased work generated through the oil and gas industry.
About half of his 15 full-time staff are now deployed to oil and gas work. He said the oil and gas industry “has had a very positive effect on the local community and ... on the economics of the town”.