Global leaders in innovative, sustainable lobster management

Second WRL DECK Program a Great Success

Last month, WRL conducted a new edition of the DECK Program, the industry forum designed to deliver quality professional development and learning opportunities for industry’s next generation of leaders.

The idea behind the Program is simple: give young lobstermen and women the tools they need and encourage them to step into positions of leadership.

Simon de Lestang, Principal Research Scientist at DPIRD, talked about innovative science in the western rock lobster fishery.


The event was held on Thursday 29th and Friday 30th of October at the Geraldton Multipurpose Centre in Geraldton.

WRL was particularly proud of the efforts to reach out to the younger members of the western rock lobster industry, with 22 participants attending the sessions. Almost 80% of the participants were under 30 years old. We welcomed participants from up and down the coast: Mandurah, Lancelin, Cervantes, Dongara, and Port Gregory.

Newly elected WRL Director, Bruce Cockman, joined his 3 nephews attending the forum. “I found the DECK program was excellent and it was very good to attend with younger members of our family fishing company. It has led to some very useful conversations in the family. I would encourage all fishers to try and attend future DECK programs or similar events.” He said.

“I decided to attend the DECK Program because I’m a third-generation fisher and wanted to meet more young fishers up and down the coast and learn about the industry.
The DECK course spelled out of a lot of things I have never quite understood. The wide range of presenters made it interesting and easy to understand the concepts and issues raised. There were great speakers who spoke throughout the two days which touched on many different things being within the industry and out. The dinner function was a great opportunity to network with other participants.” said Brendan Cockman.
“The DECK Program was not like an average meeting and encouraged us to speak up and ask more questions and have a say.  It is fair to say that it exceeded my expectations and I would highly recommend that all young people interested in the western rock lobster industry to attend. I would like to thank the Council for putting together a great couple of days.” Brendan concluded.

The purpose of the DECK Program is to foster peer-to-peer exchange and to develop leadership amongst young active commercial fishers, which includes learning from more experienced industry experts and leaders.

Nathan Maxwell-McGinn, Chair of STAG, on the current and future market for western rock lobster.


The twenty-two men and women began their two-day exploration of fishing management and operation, lobster science, business management, and networking with a welcome by WRL Chairman Terry Lissiman. “You are the future of our industry. The DECK program is about giving you the tools you need to guide this industry into the future” said Mr. Lissiman. “My generation is going to step down at some point. We need to prepare our younger people to be ready to take our places.”

The program’s interactive sessions provided the opportunity for participants to strengthen their knowledge and skills around resource management, representing industry and operating small businesses.

Nicholas Sgambelluri, one of the participants from Dongara, commented that “speakers had a good balance of crowd interaction, it wasn’t too much to the point where it’s unenjoyable but enough so you engaged with others and them.”

Jamie Koric, also a deckie from Dongara, said “It was a very good experience. I found all speakers to be very informative and knowledgeable. I learnt a lot and enjoyed meeting the other participants.”

Rhett Milliken, from Cervantes, commented that “one the most important takeaways from the DECK Program was Learning how WRL council works through different issues our industry faces.”


The DECK Program also sought to foster new relationships and networks including through a relaxing dinner held on Thursday evening at the HarborView Restaurant.


Michael Butcher said that what he liked the most about the DECK Program was “getting together with other members of the industry. It is important to take the time and listen to what other members have to say as we are all in the same boat.”


Overall, the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, with 100 per cent of participants commenting favourably on the experience.

Shortly after the DECK Program concluded, WRL conducted a survey to gather some constructive feedback to help improve future events and to develop new educational opportunities for our industry.

Nineteen out of the twenty-two participants completed the survey and these are some key results:

  • 100% of respondents said they will recommend the DECK Program to others.
  • 94% said they were very or extremely likely to attend a similar event again in the future.
  • 73% said the event better than expected while the other 27% said it was about what they expected.

“My crewmen were amazed by the diverse topics, and that they were being included in a possible future, that they themselves haven’t figured out their own pathway towards. I think we have convinced these two young men that being a part of the fishery and its decision-making process might also be enjoyable.” commented Clint Moss, WRL Director from Lancelin, who also attended the forum to support his deckies. “The whole way back to Lancelin they were talking about how welcomed and comfortable they felt and especially liked meeting other members of the fishery,” Clint added.

Participants interested in continuing their professional development were also encouraged to contact the WRL Council and express their interest in attending classes, sessions, or conferences focusing on essential skills that are linked to the industry.

WRL plans to hold the next DECK Program in 2021 in Fremantle. Interested applicants or those who know of young active fishers who are interested in becoming more involved in the lobster industry are encouraged to contact Natalia at

Posted in General, Industry News