THE high mortality rate onboard an Emanuel Exports vessel bound for the Middle East has prompted WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan to seek an investigation into the incident.
Ms MacTiernan instructed the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development last week to investigate the cause of the loss of 2400 sheep from the live export voyage in August 2017.
This was the first time a minister has taken such action in 10 years.
Emanuel Exports sent a total of 63,804 sheep on the 23-day voyage from Fremantle to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, when 3.76 per cent of the sheep perished.
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources published the figures of all livestock exports from July 1 - December 31, 2017, which highlighted that it wasn’t unusual to lose sheep on long voyages, although this particular shipment exceeded the reportable mortality level of two per cent.
Ms MacTiernan was advised by the WA Solicitor General that the State Animal Welfare Act 2002 applied to aboard live export vessels, and that WA’s legal obligations were not inconsistent with Federal laws regarding live export.
She said she had written to the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud to suggest a collaborative approach to the investigation between the State and Federal agencies.
“Our legal advice is that WA’s animal welfare laws apply on live export ships – as a government, we have an obligation to see those laws followed,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“We have real concerns over the impact of heat stress on WA sheep on live export voyages and have made clear to industry that where there may have been breaches of the Animal Welfare Act, we have a responsibility to investigate.
“Maintaining public confidence in welfare standards in live export is absolutely vital to the ongoing sustainability of industry.”
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Simon Westaway said, “Australian livestock exporters operate under the existing Federal regulatory system, which represents the world’s most comprehensive livestock export laws”.
“Exporters comply fully with reporting requirements and any supply chain investigations conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“Exporters have a proud track record of achieving continual improvement in the trade, and, as such, support ongoing Federal reform including the current review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).”
Emanuel Exports managing director Graham Daws has been reported as saying the cause of the deaths was “heat stress” during the voyage.
Mr Daws has declined to comment further while an investigation was underway, although the company said it would engage with government and comply with all their requirements.
During early August 2017, around the time of the voyage in question, extreme weather was reported across the Middle East with temperatures in Kuwait reaching 47 degrees.
In Iraq, birds were reported falling from the sky and trees caught fire.
From July 1 to December 31, 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture and Water resources livestock mortalities report, Emanuel Exports shipped a total of 634,113 sheep and lost 6781, which equates to a total 1.06pc mortality rate during those six months.
All the voyages left from Fremantle – with one including Adelaide – and all voyages went to the Middle East lasting from between 18 and 27 days.
Emmanuel Exports has been involved in the live export of sheep to the Middle East since 1960 and is still working on opening up new markets for WA sheep.
Last year managing director Graham Daws became the 2017 LiveCorp Hall of Fame recipient for his contribution to the industry.