Learning and Networking at WRL’s DECK Program 2023

In October, Western Rock Lobster (WRL) proudly hosted its fifth Annual Development Education Capacity Knowledge (DECK) Program, the interactive industry forum designed to deliver quality professional development and learning opportunities for industry’s next generation of leaders.

The event was held from midday on Wednesday 11th of October until midday Thursday 12th of October at the Fremantle Sailing Club in Fremantle.

Suzanne Ardagh
Lester Blades’ Board Advisory Practice Leader, Suzanne Ardagh FAICD, talked about the role of the Board and Directors and how they can and should add value to the leadership of an organisation.

Throughout the event, participants engaged in in-depth discussions on a wide range of topics, including boat technology, governance, market trends, social licence, lobster biology, MSC certification, and sustainability. The program also emphasized essential business-related subjects such as financial planning, well-being, and resilience, equipping attendees with a holistic skill set tailored to the industry’s unique challenges.

Courtney Bailey
Courtney Bailey, Training and Advisory Officer at Voconiq, shared her professional experience related to community engagement and provided insights on topics such as social licence and primary industries.

At its core, the DECK Program is designed to nurture leadership skills among the participants, providing them with the unique opportunity to observe and learn from seasoned leaders within the western rock lobster industry. This knowledge-sharing process is instrumental in shaping the future of the industry.

Trevor Flint
Trevor Flint, Founder and Director of Capstone Associates, led an informative discussion on effective tools and techniques for building resilience.
Evy Yeo
Evy Yeo, Export Marketing Officer at KB Seafood Company, provided insights into the significant role of the lobster processor within the industry.

In addition to its educational aspect, the DECK Program creates a platform for forging new connections and networks. This was evident during the relaxed dinner held between the two half-day sessions, which facilitated meaningful interactions and lively discussions among participants. A highlight of the event was the presence of Hon Don Punch MLA, Minister for Fisheries, and Heather Brayford, Director General for DPIRD, who joined the DECK group for dinner at the local Moore and Moore Cafe. This intimate setting allowed participants to engage with the Minister and Director General, providing a rare opportunity to see them as approachable individuals rather than distant authorities.

Hon Don Punch MLA
Hon Don Punch MLA, Minister for Fisheries, provided an excellent speech that was well received by the audience.

Participant Stephen Weldon, who travelled from Geraldton to attend the forum for the second time, shared his empowerment at being in the presence of industry leaders, stating, “You realize they are just human like the rest of us, and I could step up in the future as well.”

DECK Dinner
The DECK Program also fostered new relationships and networks through a relaxing dinner held between the two half-day sessions at Moore & Moore Cafe.

Ryan Pittorino, from Fremantle, emphasised the value of meeting new industry peers during the dinner at Moore and Moore.

Participant Terry Vinci also highlighted the value of the DECK Program in offering the chance to “network and meet with fellow industry professionals, which is otherwise challenging due to different working hours and locations.”

This year we welcomed 10 participants from various locations including Fremantle, Two Rock, Lancelin and Geraldton, as well as current industry professionals and subject-matter experts who participate in the program to foster peer-to-peer exchange.


Jayden Mair
Jayden Mair, Managing Director at Global Marine Design, delivered a very well-received session on innovations in lobster boat design and technology.


Simon de Lestang
Simon de Lestang, Principal Research Scientist at DPIRD, conducted an engaging and informative session on the history and biology of the western rock lobster.


Matt Watson
Matt Watson, Senior Fisheries Program Manager for the Asia Pacific at MSC, delivered an insightful overview of the MSC certification process and shared insights into MSC’s approach to sustainability
Nathan Harrison
Nathan Harrison, Director of Aquatic Resource Management at DPIRD, shared his personal experiences and the valuable insights gained from a unique journey.

Following the conclusion of the DECK Program, WRL conducted a survey to gather constructive feedback, aimed at improving future events and developing new educational opportunities for the industry. The feedback received was overwhelmingly positive, with a resounding 100 percent of participants expressing their willingness to recommend the DECK Program to others. Furthermore, all participants confirmed their intention to attend similar events in the future.

The value of the DECK Program extends beyond the event itself. Graduates often take a more active role in their fishery, participating in local PFA meetings, nominating for the Fishing Operations (FOC) Committee, joining the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program (NSILP), or engaging in industry conferences like the ICWL 2023 and Seafood Directions 2024.

Participants who are keen to continue their professional development are encouraged to reach out to the WRL Council to express their interest in attending additional classes, sessions, or conferences focusing on essential industry-linked skills.

WRL plans to offer the next DECK in Geraldton in October 2024. 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 natalia@westernrocklobster.org

Receive latest news and updates straight to your inbox