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Outputs - analysis by FRDC program

Program 1: Environment

Australia has a broad range of freshwater and marine habitats that support a diverse range of aquatic species. Australia’s maritime zone is one of the largest in the world covering about 13.6 million square kilometres which is about twice the area of Australia’s land mass. This zone contains about 4500 known species of finfish (and perhaps tens of thousands of invertebrate species) — most in relatively small numbers.

Federal, state and territory government agencies have legislative responsibility under fisheries legislation and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) for managing the fisheries and aquaculture activities within their jurisdictions.

Principal inputs

During 2019–20, there was $8.35 million or around 28.9 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.

Reporting in relation to the EPBC Act

Section 516A requires annual reports for Commonwealth entities to report against the criteria set out in this section of the Act. The section requires the FRDC to outline how it impacts on the environment through its activities. FRDC’s annual report covers its two primary functions — its internal operations and footprint and the external projects it funds.

Examples of project activity during the year

Deep dive to new ocean frontiers

Project 2015-025

For further information: Daniel Lerodiaconou, daniel.ierodiaconou [at] deakin.edu.au

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Victoria’s new data-rich marine ecosystem maps and models have revealed important patterns in the dynamics of Southern Rock Lobster and Blacklip Abalone fisheries, which will improve management of these high-value species

The amount of sunlight a landscape receives, the shape of the hills and valleys — even the flow of wind

— all have clear implications for the vegetation that grows and the animals it supports. It is a similar story for marine environments, although there are different factors at play.

To better understand what those factors are, the interplay between them and the implications for fish populations, researchers have developed complex models that produce detailed maps of the ocean floor overlaid with myriad physical, biological and oceanographic information.

This process has been completed recently for Victorian waters as part of an FRDC-funded project focusing specifically on the dynamics of blacklip Abalone (Haliotis rubra rubra) and Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) fisheries.

The project mapped 2512 kilometres of Victorian coast and inshore waters — about 12,000 square kilometres of water out to three nautical miles — to produce highly detailed, localised and dynamic marine maps. This kind of approach requires expertise from a broad spectrum of disciplines to integrate the many different kinds of data used.

Several different datasets were combined to map the sea floor. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning provided bathymetry data (the ocean equivalent of topography) from its Future Coast Program, which was collected to model storm surges. This data, generated by lasers (LiDAR) operated from an aeroplane, provided the first comprehensive state-wide pictures of seabed structure.

However, as lasers are not effective where the water depth is 25 metres or more, Deakin University added its own sea floor data, which it has been collecting since 2014, using its in-house multi-beam sonar. This has filled substantial sea floor knowledge gaps, as sonar systems can provide seabed data to characterise deeper reefs and benthic habitats.

The mapping is generally at a scale of between one and 2.5 metres for laser-generated data and less than one metre for sonar data. These sea floor structural maps have been especially useful to the abalone and rock lobster industries, as both target species rely on sea floor structures for habitat.

The sea floor maps were an important requirement for modelling the hydrodynamic characteristics that influence abalone and rock lobster larval dispersal patterns.

Further integration of catch and fish stocks data dating back to the early 1990s provided by fishers and Victorian fisheries managers has also helped better understand patterns of larval survival.

Combining these elements with information on sea floor structure and oceanographic and sea surface temperature data from the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) has allowed the research team to model biomass changes through time.

The research has identified the need for sustained monitoring of oceano-graphic conditions, such as waves, which is now being addressed through the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the IMOS.

Abalone genetics

The team also collected the DNA of Blacklip Abalone across 30 sites, along with data on site seabed structures and environmental conditions. The resulting analysis shows how abalone has responded to environmental changes such as converging ocean currents, sea temperature and wave energy, not just at broad regional scales (10s to 100s of kilometres) but also at local spatial scales (100s to 1000s of metres).

Industry engagement was also a critical part of the project’s success, including feedback on the abalone abundance models and patterns observed.

The research team collaborated with commercial fishers to sample 900 abalone for the genomic component of the study and characterised geomorphic traits of 30 reefs across the state’s three abalone fishing zones.

For abalone and rock lobster, the project has successfully identified important reefs, dominant larval dispersal pathways and the role of selection on larval recruitment processes. For abalone, the project has additionally produced biomass distribution models.

Broader applications

Given the detail of the data, one of its many uses may well be to identify habitat important to abalone and rock lobster. The data will also provide a guide to the most productive areas of ocean habitat where investment in restorative technologies, such as reef reseeding or translocation of animals, might get the best return on investment.

The project outputs will have multiple uses for fishers, conservation and our understanding of our geological history. The sea floor maps are accessible to the public. Other outputs and the models are currently not publicly available, but work is underway to make everything accessible through the Australian Ocean Data Network.

Marine plastics

Project 2017-199

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Globally the issue of microplastic contamination in our marine environment has been of increasing concern and as such, it is an area of interest for Australian and New Zealand researchers. The majority of research focuses around determining the prevalence and type of plastics causing concern, with only a small amount of work investigating the impact to human health. In February 2019, Food Standards Australia, New Zealand published a statement around microplastics in food, which indicated that based on the research to date plastic contamination of the food chain is unlikely to result in immediate health risks to consumers. As such, they have listed this issue as a ‘watching brief’.

The FRDC have supported a pilot project 2017-199, led by the University of Adelaide and SafeFish, to determine how widespread the presence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of commercial species of Australian fish and molluscs and compare this to international data.

In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have also been looking at the issues and have produced two publications:

Supported by society

Project 2017-158

For further information: Karen Alexander, karen.alexander [at] utas.edu.au;

Kirsten Abernethy, kirsten.abernethy [at] gmail.com and Emily Ogier, emily.ogier [at] utas.edu.au

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A deeper understanding of societal support can provide the fishing and aquaculture industry with a greater chance of achieving the outcomes they want.

If having the support of your community could be made to formula, what would the ingredients be? A pinch of visibility, a dash of positive media coverage and half a cup of social capital, perhaps?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is not that simple and while a formula would be nice, in reality the answer is rather more complicated. Instead of prescribing a formula, a recently completed FRDC-funded project, ‘Determinants of socially-supported wild-catch fisheries and aquaculture in Australia’, has sought to broaden the understanding of what securing societal support — or as many in the fishing and aquaculture industry would understand it, social licence to operate — really entails.

The project was undertaken by marine social scientists at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania and Sea Change Consulting in Port Fairy, Victoria.

It was commissioned as part of the FRDC’s Human Dimensions Research Subprogram, which oversees the inclusion of social and economic dimensions for all FRDC research proposals, basically broadening the context in which problems are defined and solved.

The project will allow for gaps and issues to be more effectively identified, providing a clearer pathway for research investment when tackling what are often wickedly complex issues.

“Identifying the determinants is a pivotal moment for the subprogram,” Emily Ogier says. “It means we can be more systematic about what RD&E we invest in to address declining societal support at a time when fisheries and aquaculture are making greater efforts to be more sustainable.”

In order to identify common factors or determinants, the researchers conducted a comparison of case studies that demonstrated societal support, or the loss of it — two of which were representative of wild-catch fisheries and two which represented aquaculture.

Out of this process the researchers identified 16 influencing factors or determinants, which were then combined into the following groups:

  • the behaviours of the people working in and representing the fishery or aquaculture farms,
  • how industry builds trust with groups they need support from,
  • the ability of industry to have influence over how they are perceived,
  • the context or situation they are operating in.

The research revealed some of the complexity involved in achieving societal support and why it is difficult to take a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach. For example, researcher Kirsten Abernethy says it is important to recognise that societal support is dynamic. “It is not something that you simply have or don’t have. Some groups of people will support a fishery or aquaculture business and others won’t, and their level of support can waver and change over time.”

The project also revealed that building societal support takes time, is difficult to build in times of crisis and can be lost quickly.

The context for every fishery and aquaculture farm also varies and often there may be parts of a situation that are beyond the control of an operator or business. This could include politics or past experiences with fishing and aquaculture.

The FRDC has created a dedicated building Community Trust webpage that provides access to tools and resources to help Australian fisheries and aquaculture operators take action to improve levels of societal support. This includes resources developed by the FRDC and other stakeholders.

Visit https://www.frdc.com.au/Issues/building-Community-Trust

Seabird interactions: Shy Albatross

Project 2016-118

For further information: Rachael Alderman, rachael.alderman [at] dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels through the availability of fishery discards, increasing the risk of injury or mortality from interactions with fishing gear. This project used novel DNA dietary analysis methods, seasonal seabird foraging ranges and fishery catch data to establish a baseline of data from which to evaluate the impact and efficacy of future management/operational or other changes to fisheries with regard to seabird interactions.

Shy Albatross scats were collected from Albatross Island in bass Strait every three months from 2014 to 2018 and the food DNA identified in each. A total of 1655 Shy Albatross scats were collected during the project, for which DNA were extracted and sequenced. The results provide a range of end users with data and supporting information for a variety of management and conservation applications, including sustainable fisheries management, ecological risk assessments, and continued conservation and management of Shy Albatross populations.

Delivering the National Carp Control plan

The FRDC established the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) in December 2016, to assess the feasibility of using Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3), as a tool to substantially reduce carp numbers.

Carp (Cyprinus carpio) have been in Australia for over 100 years and are now established in all states and territories, except the Northern Territory. As an introduced pest species carp is causing major disruptions to Australia’s delicate native ecosystems.

Since carp numbers exploded in Australia in the 1970s, a variety of measures have been used to try and control them. However, all have been unsuccessful in reducing carp impacts on a large scale. biological control (a virus) offers some key advantages over other control approaches as it can be species specific and highly effective when used correctly. It is also relatively cost effective.

The NCCP is addressing the questions: Is it feasible to release the carp herpes virus to control carp? If so what is the most effective way to release and manage the virus?

More than 15 research institutions worked to deliver the research to inform the Plan, which was presented to the Australian Government in january 2020.

The final decision on whether to release the carp virus to control carp will be made by government ministers from all federal jurisdictions. The FRDC’s role has been to present a science-based plan to Government for its consideration on the next steps.

Delivering the Plan

The Plan brings together results from each of the 18 research projects and numerous planning investigations commissioned as part of the NCCP.

The Plan also includes the feasibility assessment based on three main criteria:

  • Will the virus be an effective biocontrol agent?
  • Will the virus infect other species?
  • Can the risks associated with the release be managed?

The Plan also includes an implementation strategy, should the Government decide to release the virus. This is supported by a cost-benefit analysis and a number of case studies outlining how the release might be managed in specific regions.

With the delivery of the Plan to Government, the FRDC’s main role concluded. The FRDC is still involved in coordinating some additional research related to the NCCP.

The Australian Government will evaluate the Plan and seek the view of state governments to decide whether to proceed with the virus release. If the decision is made to proceed, a phase of legislative approval will follow before reaching the final implementation stage in which the virus would be released.

Bringing together all NCCP research

The Plan is the culmination of three years’ work, during which 18 research projects and numerous planning investigations considered all aspects of releasing a virus to control carp in Australian waterways.

The Plan is accompanied by a suite of technical papers summarising the research undertaken as well as the final research reports for each project.

Some key findings from the NCCP research include the following

Carp numbers

This work has provided the first estimate of carp biomass and density across the continent.

In May 2018 this was 205,744 tonnes, with a lower and upper limit of 117,532 and 356,482 tonnes, respectively. The range provided accounts for the statistical challenge of producing a single figure.

During a single wet year, such as May 2011, the carp biomass estimate was 368,357 tonnes, with a lower and upper limit of 184,234 and 705,630 tonnes, respectively.

The figures are a snapshot of a point in time. However, the work has highlighted how carp densities of more than 100 kilograms per hectare cause damage to the ecosystem. Densities of 200 to 400 kilograms per hectare were found through much of the middle and lower reaches of Australia’s major southern river systems.

This data pinpoints the areas where carp control is most urgent and where it will have the greatest impact.

The effect of the virus on carp

The research assessed how effective the virus would be at reducing carp populations and how long this effect would last.

Based on modelling undertaken by the CSIRO, effective deployment of the carp virus will reduce carp populations by 40 to 60 per cent for at least 10 years. The modelling shows that the virus will be able to reduce carp populations below the 150 kilogram per hectare damage threshold.

Native species

The original 2017 CSIRO study on the interactions between the carp virus and Australian native species indicated that no native species appeared to show any sign of infectious disease.

The NCCP undertook a review of impacts on other or non-target species to ensure the Australian Government has the most thorough scientific evidence upon which to base its decision on whether to release the virus. The review highlighted that some additional work could be done to increase confidence that there would not be any impacts on other species.

Water quality

Understanding water quality impacts of carp mortality is important to assess the risks of virus release and to inform carcass management and water treatment.

There are two potential impacts on water quality from carp mortality — reduced oxygen levels and algae outbreaks.

The carp decomposition process will cause algae and other organisms to thrive, which in turn will cause the oxygen level in the water to drop. This may impact on native species which are susceptible to reduced levels of oxygen. Cyanobacterial (blue green algae) blooms are also more likely when additional nutrients (e.g. from carp mortality) are added to water bodies.

Results have shown that there would be no large-scale impacts on water quality in natural waterbodies, especially where there is some flow. There are higher risks in still and shallow waterbodies. Carcass management would be required in waterbodies with poor water flow and high carp density to avoid water quality impacts in these sensitive locations.

The research also found that even with the highest likely levels of carp mortality, water treatment plants are already equipped to cope with the purification that would be required. Parameters have also been developed to identify appropriate treatments for each level of carp contamination to ensure safe drinking water for the community.

Environmental risk assessment

The study evaluated the ecological risks associated with releasing the virus in a variety of Australian ecosystems, such as wetlands, river systems, lakes and impoundments. The work relied on the water quality research as described earlier.

The assessment highlighted a number or risks that could have a medium level of impact on natural systems. Many risks would be negligible or could be mitigated by management measures.

The work also highlighted the importance of timing the possible release to minimise the impact on fish-eating birds, which would be relying on carp as a food source, especially while raising their chicks.

The report discussed mitigation strategies to minimise these risks and the residual risk after the strategies are implemented. Mitigation is mostly centred on the timing of the release.

Clean-up and carcass management

A detailed review of available studies on clean-up of fish kills revealed the importance of planning and preparation. This information, paired with the knowledge of the carp densities present in different areas, will assist in coordinating the carcass management efforts where required.

Community and stakeholders’ attitudes

Social risk assessment and surveys found that communities are mostly accepting of carp control using the carp virus. However, people’s attitudes towards the virus release were found to depend on their familiarity with the NCCP, personal interactions with waterways, knowledge of carp impacts, as well as on their values and sense of community responsibility towards environmental stewardship.

A comprehensive survey of relevant stakeholders was also conducted to gather the views of a wide range of groups who may be impacted by the virus release. These included the tourism sector, commercial fishers, traditional owners, recreational fishers, the koi industry, and the native fish aquaculture sector.

Recommendations were included in this project on how to best minimise and manage impacts to these groups.

Case studies

The NCCP implementation strategy is high level, allowing for the virus release to be adapted to local conditions, should it go ahead.

However, a number of detailed case studies have been included in the NCCP to provide examples of how virus deployment and carcass management could occur in specific regions. The chosen case studies in the Lachlan, Mid Murray River and Lock 1 to Lock 3 in South Australia assessed every aspect of implementation including: implementation planning, communication and engagement, regional coordination, operations preparation, virus deployment, carcass management, surveillance, and monitoring and evaluation.

The case studies also provided real-world information to use in calculating the cost of virus release, should it be deemed feasible.

As the NCCP draws to a close, the www.carp.gov.au website will continue as a central repository of research completed as part of this work.

Communicating the work of the NCCP

Throughout the life of the Plan, a comprehensive communication strategy has been implemented by the FRDC.

This consisted of regular updates on the progress of the NCCP in FISH magazine as well as regular media releases to inform the general public of research results as they became available. During the financial year 2019–20, four media releases were sent out Australia-wide.

An online platform was also established and advertised to over 5000 stakeholders, where interested parties could view the details of each research project as it was completed. The platform allowed stakeholders to provide feedback and their comments were included into the NCCP for Government’s consideration.

Stakeholder input was also sought in person through six-monthly meetings where researchers presented their results and were available to answer questions.

NCCP in COVID-19 times

After the NCCP was presented to Government in January 2020, work continued on additional research designed to augment and cross-check previous scientific work.

This is when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.

COVID-19 has caused significant delays for final project completion. The FRDC and the Government have been in close communication to ensure both parties are aware of the rapidly changing situation.

While all possible planning and risk mitigation is in place to ensure that research can go forward and be completed in a timely manner, a level of risk remains, particularly capacity at Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (formerly Australian Animal Health Laboratory) in the evolving COVID-19 situation.

There will be a check-in point in October 2020 to firm timelines for work going forward.

Benefit cost analysis

An impact assessment of FRDC investment in Shark Futures: A report card for Australia’s sharks and rays

Project: 2013-009

Title: Shark Futures: A report card for Australia’s sharks and rays

Research organisation: James Cook University

Principal investigator: Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University

Period of funding: March 2013 to March 2019

FRDC program allocation: Environment 80% Adoption 20%

Benefit: Funding for the project over the three years totalled $0.37 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.26 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.88 million, a benefit cost ratio of 3.4 to 1, an internal rate of return of 24.7% and a modified internal rate of return of 10.0%.

What the report is about

This report presents the results of an impact assessment of the FRDC investment in a project to synthesise the available information on sharks and shark-like rays in Australian waters and to prepare a report card on their status. The project arose from the world-wide concern for the status of sharks and rays and to ensure continuing effective management of Australia’s sharks and ray species.

Australian resource management of sharks and rays in Australian waters is recognised as world-leading, but there are still a number of issues and information gaps that face Australian managed sharks and rays. Information is often fragmentary, difficult to access, and limited to a few species that are targeted by fisheries. Apart from the need for Australian government decision makers to have up-to-date and accurate information, the growing information needs of global initiatives such as Shark-Plan 2 and Environment Protection biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) listings required synthesised information on the status of Australian managed sharks and rays. Hence, the synthesis of knowledge about Australian managed sharks and rays was critical to addressing the future challenges of both Australian and global management.

The funding of FRDC’s project 2013-009 (A report card for Australia’s sharks and rays) addressed the need to continue to manage sharks and rays in Australian waters both for their continuing sustainable use as well as for ecological considerations and the maintenance of biodiversity. A total of 320 species of sharks and rays inhabit Australian waters, some of these are endemic. Sharks are inherently vulnerable from overfishing as well from their life history characteristics as they are less productive than many other fish species. To continue to manage shark and ray species sustainably, fisheries managers require up-to-date information, including access to locally relevant information. In 2013 appropriate information was often not readily available and such information, if available, was difficult to interpret for management decision making.

FRDC’s project 2013-009 was developed from discussions with managers and decision makers in several Australian and state government departments. A project was developed to assist fisheries managers to manage species with the greatest need. Government processes required such information for domestic fisheries management and planning, biodiversity management including endangered species listings and marine park management, and as an input into a number of international treaty obligations and processes in which Australia was involved (e.g. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Plan of Action (IPOA Shark)).

Results/key findings

The major outputs from the project included a synthesis of available information on sharks and shark- like rays in Australian waters, a report card on their status, the development of a database, and a website. Sources of information included formally published literature, observer programs, shark control programs, fisheries data and expert knowledge.

The overall finding was that Australia is effectively managing its sharks and shark-like rays and the majority of the populations are considered sustainable. However, some species of concern were identified where improved management is required to ensure stocks are not overfished.

Prospective users of the improved synthesised information include Australian fisheries managers (e.g. by-catch management, identification of research priorities) and an Australian contribution to international treaty processes such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Shark-Plan 2.

Over time the investment in up-to-date information, the shark and shark-like ray database and website will assist the current and future effective and sustainable management of sharks and rays in Australian waters, as well as a contribution that will be manifest globally.

Outcomes

  • Recommendation 1 has been actioned and the project information is now on FRDC’s website — www.fish.gov.au.
  • Recommendation 3 has been partly actioned; the Red List assessments of rays have been completed as part of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) funded Shark Action Plan (Colin Simfendorfer, pers. comm., 2020).
  • Recommendation 4 has been partially actioned via the NESP Shark Action Plan work and is expected to be finalised soon (Colin Simfendorfer, pers. comm., 2020).
  • Prospective users of the improved set of integrated information include Australian fisheries managers (e.g. for by-catch management, and for identification of research priorities).
  • Prospective users include managers of Australian and state fisheries, as well as environmental non-government organisations.
  • The project has resulted in improved priority setting for Australian and state fishery management in terms of shark and shark-like ray management.
  • The outputs of the project allowed Australia to continue to contribute positively to international treaty processes such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the FAO IPOA Shark.

Impacts

  • Contribution to improved prioritisation of research leading to research resource allocation efficiency.
  • Reduced chances of a shark and shark-like rays’ species becoming more vulnerable and even extinct in Australia’s waters.
  • Continued Australian support for the current social licence to fish and continued sustainable access to sharks and shark-like ray species for commercial fisheries, as well as for recreational and Indigenous purposes.
  • Contribution/endorsement of Australia’s image world wide as being an effective fisheries manager.

Public versus private impacts

Most impacts identified in this evaluation are related to effective management of sharks and shark-like rays in Australian waters. both private and public impacts have been delivered by investment in the project 2013-009. These impacts will include the continued catching of some species of sharks and rays in Australian fisheries as well as highlighting where some species of sharks and shark-like rays require more research or where changed management of species is required to ensure specific stocks are not overfished.

Impacts overseas

Australia’s positive image and reputation for its management of fisheries has been maintained and potentially enhanced due to the investment in the project. In addition, the methods employed in assembling information may provide a model that could be used by other countries in assessing their management of such fish species.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE CATEGORIES OF PRINCIPAL IMPACTS FROM PROJECT 2013-009

Economic

  • Continued access to catch some selected sharks and shark-like rays in Australian fisheries.
  • Contribution to improved prioritisation of research leading to research resource

allocation efficiency.

Environmental

  • Continued effectiveness of biodiversity and environmental management of sharks and shark-like rays in Australian waters, with reduced likelihood of a shark and ray species decline.

Social

  • Contribution/endorsement of Australia’s image world-wide as being an effective fisheries manager.
  • Continued Australian support for the current social licence to fish and continued sustainable access to sharks and shark-like ray species for commercial fisheries, as well as for recreational and indigenous purposes.
  • Contribution to increased capability and capacity with respect to assembling key

fisheries information at a species level for fisheries management purposes.

Conclusions

The overall finding of the project investment was that Australia is effectively managing its sharks and shark-like rays and the majority of the shark populations are considered sustainable. Some species of concern were identified where improved management was required to ensure stocks are not overfished.

The findings of the project will likely generate support for continued access to sharks in commercial fisheries as well as reduced chances of a shark and shark-like ray species becoming more vulnerable in Australia’s waters, at least in the medium term.

Funding for the project over the three years totalled $0.37 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.26 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.88 million, a benefit cost ratio of 3.4 to 1, an internal rate of return of 24.7 per cent and a modified internal rate of return of 10.0 per cent.

Program 2: Industry

Demand for high-quality seafood is predicted to outstrip supply in both domestic and export markets. Similarly, in the recreational and customary sectors the demand for high-quality fishing experiences will outstrip supply. There is a need to increase both the production and the value of the catch, and to take advantage of future opportunities. For the commercial sector, business profitability and international competitiveness are overriding concerns. This program aims to assist all sectors improve their overall performance. The following pages provide examples of the R&D currently underway. For a full listing of projects visit the FRDC website — www.frdc.com.au

Principal inputs

During 2019–20, there was $13.39 million or around 46.3 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.

Examples of project activity during the year

Safe work practices

Project 2017-046

For further information: Kate Brooks, kate [at] kalanalysis.com.au

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This project, undertaken by a team of researchers, workplace health and safety specialists, industry association and Australian Maritime Safety Authority representatives, responded to a call to research how barriers to the adoption of safe(r) workplace health and safety practices could be identified and addressed.

The objective of the project was to identify why fishers’ behaviours and attitudes were not changing positively, despite training, information and coronial pressure to adapt existing workplace health and safety approaches.

The project had a three-stage approach including a literature review, safety climate survey and focus group discussions. Identifying a number of issues, the findings provide a clear pathway and opportunity to change how we approach safety and the development of workplace health and safety culture in the fishing industry, and to achieve significantly improved outcomes for fishers and their families.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has been working on generating changes to approaches and engagement regimes, fully detailed in the ‘Extension and adoption’ section of this report. These initiatives will help to establish more effective relationships between regulators and industry, with the result of assisting industry to develop a stronger safety culture.

Safety at sea

Project 2018-106

For further information: Geoff Diver, geoffdiver [at] iinet.net.au

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In recent years there have been a number of instances where vessels have been lost causing the deaths of a significant number of fishers. In some cases, the vessels were lost before the crew could activate the vessel’s Emergency Positioning Radio beacon (EPIRb). EPIRb forms the basis for the formal search and rescue (SAR) agencies in Australia, and the absence of an EPIRb signal can significantly diminish the effectiveness of a search and rescue mission.

This project examined other electronic platforms typically found on fishing vessels and investigated if these could be incorporated into a process, policy or procedure which could increase the maritime safety of the Australian fishing fleet. In analysing these electronic platforms, it was concluded that EPIRb should remain the primary distress signalling platform for Australian fishing vessels. EPIRb signals are monitored globally by dedicated SAR authorities which have the expertise and resources to triage the initial distress signal, and coordinate a SAR mission. The report also discusses other safety issues such as the development of a safety management system, and other quantitative risk assessment processes, as well as making 14 recommendations to aid in increasing sea safety.

Spotlight on Australian Salmon

Projects 2006-018, 2013-711.3, 2016-121, 2017-023, 2018-306; CRC 2008.794.10, 2008.794

For further information: Janet Howieson, j.howieson [at] curtin.edu.au

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Can collaboration between fishers and the seafood supply chain help the under-rated wild-caught Australian Salmon find a place in a consumer market dominated by a red-fleshed import?

Australian Salmon’s image problem is twofold. One is its poor reputation as a fresh fish offering. The other is its unfavourable comparison with the market-leading Atlantic Salmon. For commercial fishers, both issues have contributed to falling demand and prices so low the fish is hardly worth catching.

Australian Salmon have a pinky-brown coloured flesh when raw, which turns pale — almost white — when cooked. They are more like herring than salmonids and the Australian Herring (Arripis georgianus) is a member of the same family.

Fishers’ challenge

During the past decade, the FRDC has invested in several research projects to identify ways to make better use of Australian Salmon. It is officially designated as ‘sustainable’ in the 2018 SAFS reports (www.fish.gov.au), and it could be harvested in significantly larger quantities than it currently is.

As a fisheries resource, it has the potential to return a much greater value to fishers, and to the community more broadly, than it currently does. With Australians importing almost 70 per cent of the seafood they eat, there is a growing economic and social imperative to eat local.

but among fishers and fishmongers, Australian Salmon is often considered a bait species and not worth the care needed to prepare it for the dinner table. And this fish does need care; it is unforgiving of mistreatment.

A quick kill by brain spiking the fish, then bleeding and immediately chilling is considered best practice to maintain the quality of the flesh (see FRDC Aquatic Animal Welfare — Research). However, Australian Salmon are often harvested in large numbers from shallow water by hauling nets onto beaches, which can make clean and speedy processing a challenge. It may be difficult in these conditions, but not impossible to maintain fish quality, as an FRDC-funded project has demonstrated. This project developed best practice processing techniques and quality standards for the fish in Western Australia, which has previously provided the majority of the national harvest, although volumes have fallen in recent years.

In other states, fishers might also purse seine fish onto vessels rather than beaches. Some make this choice to avoid sand contamination and improve processing; for others it is part of compliance with state regulations that prohibit beach landings, such as in Tasmania and Victoria.

Distribution of Australian Salmon

There are two closely related species of Australian Salmon, each of which forms a single, independent biological stock that crosses several fisheries jurisdictions.

The Eastern Australian Salmon (Arripis trutta) is found in southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Large mature fish are most commonly found off the coast of New

South Wales. Eggs and larvae disperse, and maturing fish return north to spawn, usually aged two to four years.

The Western Australian Salmon (Arripis truttaceus) is found in south-western Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. It spawns off south- west Western Australia, with eggs and larvae dispersing eastward. Fish return west to spawn, usually aged three to five years.

The Western Australian Salmon species grows to 85 centimetres and 10 kilograms. The Eastern Australian Salmon grows slightly longer, to 87 centimetres, but is lighter, at less than eight kilograms.

Benefit cost analysis

An impact assessment of FRDC investment in Maximising net economic returns from a multi-species fishery

Project: 2015-202

Title: Maximising net economic returns from a multi-species fishery Research organisation: CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship Principal investigator: Sean Pascoe

Period of funding: July 2015 to September 2017

FRDC program allocation: Industry 75%, Environment 25%

Benefit: Funding for project 2015-202 totalled $0.67 million (present value terms). The FRDC investment costs were $0.40 million (present value terms). Though currently there is no evidence that the project outputs have been utilised, the findings may lead to future changes to Commonwealth fisheries management (and, potentially, the management of other fisheries) via increased attention to total economic outcomes including interests of consumers and non-market impacts. Such future changes, in turn, may result in productivity and/or profitability impacts for Australian fishers, reduced prices for consumers of Australian fish, and improved economic and environmental sustainability for some Australian fisheries.


What the report is about

Setting management reference points and targets in multi-species fisheries is complex (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), 2013). While the pursuit of a fishing offtake target that maximises net economic returns (NER) or maximum economic yield (MEY) is considered logical, it was recognised that such a pursuit may result in some less prominent commercial species being at higher risk than would be desirable. This was because the offtake of such species could result in their population levels falling to below their individual sustainable yields. This increased risk could be associated with higher industry costs in the long term in order to return some species to sustainable populations.

Also, another review of Commonwealth fisheries policy and management had already highlighted the importance of giving greater consideration to issues of bycatch and other environmental factors when setting management targets (Borthwick, 2012). Other FRDC projects (e.g. 2011/200) had developed techniques to approximate economic-based target reference points in multi-species fisheries. However, such projects did not address potential constraints on targets to ensure that populations of individual species are not reduced to levels that may result in high risk of stock collapse, or the scenario of the potential future costs of allowing minor stocks to recover.

Further, the previous studies had not identified how to monitor the transition to NER, particularly for minor species where data were limited. The DAFF (2013) report had recognised that setting catch targets which are incompatible with the relative catch mixes was likely to result in substantial under- catch of some species and over-catching and discarding of other species. This issue was considered relevant to the Commonwealth South East Shark and Scalefish Fishery (SESSF). This is a multi-species and multi-gear fishery. The SESSF, and the trawl component in particular, was targeted as the main case study for the current project. This fishery was chosen as the SESSF was experiencing issues with balancing actual catch with catch targets.

Other background to the current project was that NER and MEY were restricted to the net economic gain by commercial fishers and did not include the interests of consumers. The current project extended its scope to include consumer interests in NER and MEY, not just long-term commercial fisher profitability that accounted for sustainability issues.

Results/key findings

Currently there is no evidence that the project outputs have been utilised. However, the findings of the investment in project 2015-202 may lead to future changes to Commonwealth fisheries management (and, potentially, the management of other fisheries) via increased attention to total economic outcomes including interests of consumers and non-market impacts.

Outcomes

  • No evidence of changes to how the SESSF is managed were discovered during the period of assessment. However, it is possible that the project findings may be used to improve future SESSF management decisions to ensure sustainable management of the multi-species fishery.

Impacts

  • Though currently there is no evidence that the project outputs have been utilised, the findings may lead to future changes to Commonwealth fisheries management (and, potentially, the management of other fisheries) via increased attention to total economic outcomes including interests of consumers and non-market impacts. Such changes are likely to lead to improved economic and environmental sustainability of affected fisheries.
  • Potential beneficiaries of the project will be both the commercial fishing industry and consumers; industry will potentially benefit from improved quota setting processes that better align with their catch and also result in reduced frequency of closures to allow recovery of threatened species; consumers potentially will benefit from reduced prices for the more abundant fish species.

Public versus private impacts

Both public and private potential impacts were identified for the project. Private impacts may be delivered as a result of increased productivity and/or profitability for Australian fishers achieved through improved quota setting and management of fisheries. Further, consumers of Australian fish may benefit from reduced market prices because of increased abundance of some fish species. Public impacts may potentially be delivered through improved environmental sustainability of Australian fisheries as a result of improved management.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE CATEGORIES OF PRINCIPAL POTENTIAL IMPACTS FROM PROJECT 2015-202

Economic

  • Maintained and/or increased productivity and/or profitability for commercial fisheries through improved quota setting and management of Commonwealth and, potentially, other Australian fisheries. Industry will potentially benefit from improved quota setting processes that better align with their desired catch and improved overall fisheries management resulting in reduced fishery closures to allow recovery of threatened species.
  • Associated with increased productivity for fishers, consumers of fish may benefit from reduced market prices for more abundant fish species.
  • Potential changes to Commonwealth fisheries management (and, potentially, the management of other fisheries) via increased attention to total economic outcomes including interests of consumers and non-market impacts. Such changes are likely to lead to improved economic and environmental sustainability for affected

fisheries.

Environmental

  • As noted above, potential changes to fisheries management may lead to improved environmental sustainability for affected Australian fisheries.

Social

  • Nil

Conclusions

Funding for project 2015-202 totalled $0.67 million (present value terms). The FRDC investment costs were $0.40 million (present value terms). Though currently there is no evidence that the project outputs have been utilised, the findings may lead to future changes to Commonwealth fisheries management (and, potentially, the management of other fisheries) via increased attention to total economic outcomes including interests of consumers and non-market impacts. Such future changes, in turn, may result in productivity and/or profitability impacts for Australian fishers, reduced prices for consumers of Australian fish, and improved economic and environmental sustainability for some Australian fisheries.

Program 3: Communities

The fishing industry forms an integral part of many rural and regional communities. For the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry, it is important the interactions and co-dependence between the community and industry be understood. For a full listing of projects visit — www.frdc.com.au

Principal inputs

During 2019–20, there was $2.25 million or around 7.8 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.

Examples of project activity during the year

Common ground

Project: 2017-069

For further information: Chris Calogeras, chris [at] c-aid.com.au

NATIONAL PRIORITY

INFRASTRUCTURE

PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

ENVIRONMENT

INDUSTRY

COMMUNITIES

PEOPLE

ADOPTION

The capacity for Indigenous involvement in fisheries and aquaculture is growing through an approach that puts communication at its core.

Fisheries science and management have many concepts in common with Indigenous community practices, but the lack of a shared language has often made it difficult to bring the two together. Finding ways to do just this was the aim of an inaugural Indigenous fishery capacity-building workshop held in Brisbane earlier this year.

Organised by the FRDC’s Indigenous Reference Group (IRG), the three-day event was designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people participate in fisheries management discussions and strengthen their voice in the decision-making process.

Capacity building starts with clear communications, says chair of the IRG, Stan Lui, who is also an environmental program manager with the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

The concepts around fisheries management among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are similar, but are just couched in different terms.

When Indigenous communities talk about storylines, this equates to migratory patterns in the equivalent scientific terminology. Management-speak, such as biomass limits and total allowable catches have their equivalent in Indigenous practices, learned in childhood. For example, to never take as much as you can, but always leave some behind to regenerate so that there is more to harvest next time.

This project is about making those linkages and giving ATSI people a broader understanding. So, when they are in fisheries meetings or talks they understand exactly what the terminology means and the concepts behind it. We are building bridges between people and pulling down barriers.

Fifteen Aboriginal people from around Australia who are passionate about fisheries attended the workshop, gaining greater knowledge about management practices and the terminology used in policies and regulation, as well as sharing issues important to them.

Sessions included understanding the protocols and structures of management meetings, stock assessment methods and fishery management frameworks, among others.

The program provided a two-way learning process helping both sides to better communicate and understand terminology used by ATSI people, and how that aligns with management-speak.

As the language barriers are broken down, people will be able to step confidently into this space. With greater understanding, more opportunities will emerge for Indigenous input, or ‘buy-in’ into management tools such as harvest strategies as they are being developed.

Capacity building is a key priority for the FRDC’s IRG. The overall aim of the capacity-building program is to have more Indigenous men and women participating actively in fisheries and build in succession planning for Indigenous communities.

Resources developed for the workshop are expected to be available from the FRDC website (https:// www.frdc.com.au) once the project is completed.

Fisher conversation helps shape industry pledge

Project 2017-242

For further information: Seafood Industry Australia, info [at] seafoodindustryaustralia.com.au

NATIONAL PRIORITY

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PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

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ADOPTION

Many community and industry values align, but further action is needed to help secure the social licence of the Australian seafood sector.

Whether you call it trust, acceptance or social licence — listening to, acknowledging and responding to community concerns is critical to the future of the Australian seafood industry. So much so that Seafood Industry Australia’s (SIA) members have made building the industry’s social licence their number one priority.

Assisted by the FRDC, SIA has assessed current and emerging community concerns using data from risk management agency Futureye, the FRDC and the Marine Stewardship Council. The primary concerns identified relate to sustainability, the environment, accountability, animal welfare and industry safety.

SIA also assessed the industry’s values and current practices. These were found to mostly align well with community values such as responsible fishing practices, environmental stewardship, connecting with communities and sharing information about fisheries, fishing practices and products.

From this process has grown ‘Our Pledge’, a statement, still in development, from industry that responds to community concerns and acknowledges the industry’s responsibility for the future.

Social licence is front and centre for our members and the wider industry, and SIA is taking a proactive approach to ensure our industry’s ongoing acceptance within the community by developing ‘Our Pledge’.

SIA has taken ‘Our Pledge’ to workshops around the country to discuss it with SIA members and as many other industry participants as possible before it is finalised and made public.

SIA has consulted with over 50 industry sectors at these meetings. There’s a broad range of views about the industry from highly favourable to suspicious. The goal of the project is to demonstrate our authentic practices that help us look after the marine environment and contribute to the community.

For further information visit the SIA website — https://seafoodindustryaustralia.com.au/.

Benefit cost analysis

An impact assessment of FRDC investment in Sustainable Fishing Families: Developing industry human capital through health, wellbeing, safety and resilience

Project: 2016-400

Title: Sustainable Fishing Families: Developing industry human capital through health, wellbeing, safety and resilience

Research organisation: Deakin University

Principal investigator: Tanya King

Period of funding: year ending June 2016 to June 2018

FRDC program allocation: Communities 100%

Benefit: The investment in this project will likely be translated into improvements in the long-term health, safety and wellbeing of Australian commercial fishers. Funding for the project over the two years totalled

$0.23 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.18 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.95 million, a benefit cost ratio of 5.1 to 1, an internal rate of return of 60.9% and a modified internal rate of return of 12.3%.

What the report is about

This report presents the results of an impact assessment of the FRDC investment in a project to improve the health and wellbeing of those engaged in the wild-catch fishing industry. The investment was precipitated by earlier pressures highlighting the need for health and safety improvements including the safety culture that currently existed.

Project 2016-400 addressed these issues via a national survey of the professional wild-catch fishing industry addressing a number of health and wellbeing indicators. The survey established a baseline set of health and wellbeing information. Then followed an intensive pilot program on health, safety and wellbeing that was aimed specifically at fishers and fishing families; the program was modelled on the previously successful Sustainable Farm Families Program.

The current project evolved from an earlier FRDC-funded project 2012/402 entitled ‘Staying healthy, industry organisations’ influence on behaviours and services used by fishers. This earlier project both reported an urgent need for nationwide baseline data on mental health concerns in the commercial fishing sector, on the detailed health requirements of fishers, and the differences between the health challenges faced by fishers compared to those faced by farmers. Health issues faced by Australian farmers had already been addressed by the Sustainable Farm FamiliesTM Program. The program directed at farmers had already delivered significant health benefits to farmers and farming communities.

The funding of the Sustainable Fishing Families project addressed the need to recognise the importance of the human capital role in the Australian commercial fishing industry. The project also addressed a need identified by the Victoria Research Advisory Committee, formerly the Victoria Fisheries Research Advisory body, to identify and address potential losses incurred though fisher poor health and wellbeing (including mental health).

Results/key findings

The major findings from the survey identified the health symptoms experienced by fishers, as well as their levels of psychological distress. The factors contributing to their symptoms included both physical and mental issues. The health and safety behaviours of fishers were identified as well as how they accessed health information and whether they sought assistance or treatment.

Despite difficulties in recruiting fishing families to the pilot program, seven fishing families participated in the pilot program. The program was successful based on the evaluation by those participating in workshops, as well as the evaluation of the program as a whole. Outcomes from the program included improvements in fitness and diet, as well as elicitation of follow-ups with general practitioners. The most common referral was for cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors.

The pilot program delivered implications for fishing families and communities, health professionals, industry associations, fishing managers and policy makers. A number of recommendations were made in the final report.

Over time the investment in the survey and pilot program is likely to lead to greater awareness of issues associated with the health, safety and wellbeing of fishers and fishing families leading to potential policies and programs to elicit behavioural changes and promote increased wellbeing within the wild- catch fishing industry.

Outcomes

  • The first national benchmarking survey delivered information that provided a baseline information on the status of health and wellbeing of Australian commercial fishers. The survey information also informed issues related to the pilot training program.
  • The pilot Sustainable Fishing Families Program was successful based on the evaluation by those participating in workshops, as well as the evaluation of the program as a whole.
  • Outcomes from the pilot training program included improvements in fitness and diet of fishers, as well as elicitation of follow-ups with general practitioners. The most common referral was for cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors. Also, having a better understanding of one’s own health and wellbeing can assist with making self-improvements and a stronger focus on areas that need attention.
  • In addition, the project delivered greater awareness of commercial fisher health and wellbeing issues to fishing industry associations, fishing managers and policy makers, community organisations and health professionals associated with commercial fishing.
  • A key outcome of the project has been the taking up of the issue of mental health in the fishing sector, through programs like Rural Alive and Well (Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council), the Project Regard project (Women in Seafood Australasia) and the funding of a mental health workshop by FRDC in Adelaide (Tanya king, pers. comm., 2020).
  • Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) now list mental health as a central concern for the industry, and the federal government has provided $600,000 to implement a mental health program targeted at the industry (Tanya king, pers. comm., 2020);
  • Further information on SIA and mental health is available at https://seafoodindustryaustralia.com.au/our-priorities/mental-health/

Impacts

  • Improved health (including mental health and safety) and wellbeing of the commercial fishers and their families involved in the pilot program.
  • Improved health (including mental health and safety) and wellbeing of commercial fishers and their families delivered via potential future initiatives that build on the experiences, findings and recommendations of project 2016-400.
  • Potential contribution to improved health, safety, and wellbeing of fishers through improved understanding and management of issues by industry associations, fishing managers, policy makers and health professionals.
  • Contribution to increased research capability and capacity with respect to understanding factors affecting the health and wellbeing of commercial fisher and their families.

Public versus private impacts

Most impacts identified in this evaluation are related to improved health (including mental health and safety) and wellbeing of commercial fishers and their families. These impacts will apply to some individual fishers participating in the pilot program, as well as a contribution to potentially improved future programs and other industry management and policy changes that may evolve from project 2016-400.

Some public impacts will be in the form of improved industry and policy management that provides attention to the health and wellbeing of commercial fishers.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE CATEGORIES OF PRINCIPAL IMPACTS FROM PROJECT 2016-400

Economic

  • Contribution to potential improved health (including mental health), safety and wellbeing of the seven fishers who undertook the pilot training program.
  • Potential contribution to improved health (including mental health), safety and wellbeing of other fishers through improvements to future wellbeing fisher programs that build on project 2016-400.
  • Potential contribution to improved health, safety and wellbeing through improve understanding and improved management of the issues by industry associations, fishing managers, policy makers and health professionals.

Environmental

  • Nil

Social

  • Contribution to increased research capability and capacity with respect to understanding factors affecting the health (including safety) and wellbeing of commercial fishers and their families.

Conclusions

The investment in this project will likely be translated into improvements in the long-term health, safety and wellbeing of Australian commercial fishers. Funding for the project over the two years totalled $0.23 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.18 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.95 million, a benefit cost ratio of 5.1 to 1, an internal rate of return of 60.9 per cent and a modified internal rate of return of 12.3 per cent.

As only one impact of those identified was not valued, the investment criteria as provided by the valued benefit are likely to cover adequately the impacts adequately. However, confidence in the assumptions made to value the impacts was considered to be only low to medium.

Program 4: people

People are the cornerstone of every industry. For the fishing industry, it is vital that it continues to attract and develop people who will take the industry to a sustainable and profitable future. The FRDC has taken a strong role in supporting people development, from employing and developing young researchers, through to facilitating access to leadership development for all levels of industry. Development of people is also a critical element and pathway to realising the benefits of the FRDC’s investment in R&D.

Projects funded under Program 4 primarily address the FRDC’s People program. However, this is also addressed, as a secondary but very important element, by projects within programs 1 and 2. For a full listing of projects visit FRDC’s website — www.frdc.com.au

Principal inputs

During 2019–20, there was $2.2 million or around 7.6 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.

Examples of project activity during the year

FISH 2.0

Project 2017-219

For further information: Monica Jain, mantaconsulting [at] gmail.com

NATIONAL PRIORITY

INFRASTRUCTURE

PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

ENVIRONMENT

INDUSTRY

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PEOPLE

ADOPTION

The FRDC experiment in partnering with the United States based Fish 2.0 has delivered some good results. Eight of the 40 companies who took part in the FISH 2.0 Australian program made it to the global finale at Stanford in the United States.

The FRDC partnership culminated at the Global Innovators Forum held at Stanford, California on 4–5 November 2019. The core elements of Fish 2.0 included a series of entrepreneur training workshops that included exposure to investor feedback, an online (pitch readiness) assessment program, which again provided investors feedback and helped innovators improve their pitch, a series of investor education publications and an ongoing communications campaign to raise awareness and engagement in the sustainable seafood sector.

This year’s forum confirmed that the sustainable seafood sector is now on firm footing and is no longer on the fringe. The investor representation at the forum reflected this mainstreaming, including not just ‘seafood’ investors, but individuals and funds from the broader ‘ag-tech’ world and agricultural banking. For the first time, the leading United States seafood distributors were there too, and were amazed at the innovation happening in their own sector.

The winner judged ‘Fish 2.0 Top Innovator Award — Australia’ by the forum was Australian Crayfish Hatchery.

Aquaculture focus for science stars

Project 2008-339

For further information: Elliot Scanes, elliot.scanes [at] sydney.edu.au

NATIONAL PRIORITY

INFRASTRUCTURE

PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

ENVIRONMENT

INDUSTRY

COMMUNITIES

PEOPLE

ADOPTION

Combining marine biology and food production, marine biologist Elliot Scanes won this year’s FRDC- sponsored Science and Innovation Awards for young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The awards are presented at the Australian bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) annual Outlook conference each March. The research awarded featured the microbiome of oysters, high-value nutritional supplements from algae, and systems to concentrate oxygen in aquaculture ponds.

Elliot plans to investigate the microbiome of oysters, an area of research he says has the potential to improve oyster resilience in the face of disease and climate challenges.

The first step will be to assess what organisms make up the microbiota inside oysters, a process made possible by new technology and techniques. He says all animals, be they oysters or people, have microorganisms — bacteria, viruses, fungi and other single-celled animals — that live within them.

“These microorganisms are really important to our health and wellbeing, but we’re really only just discovering how important they can be.” He will then look at how climate change, especially the warming of the oceans, might affect the microbiota inside oysters.

The second part of the research will be to identify whether existing techniques, such as selective breeding, can be used to improve that microbiota.

Elliot says the immune systems of oysters might not be as strong as that of mammals. This, combined with their exposure to changing environments, leaves them vulnerable to diseases and other pathogens. “Microorganisms associated with oysters are really important in helping them fight disease, and also to be healthy in general,” he says. “We know that diseases are one of the biggest issues with oyster growing. If we can wind that back a little bit, it’ll be really rewarding to know that we actually helped the industry that way.”

Elliot is based at the University of Sydney and will partner with the NSW Department of Primary Industries on the research.

Benefit cost analysis

An impact assessment of FRDC investment in​ Seafood Marketing Symposium 2018 Showcasing Our Seafood— A spectrum of opportunities

Project: 2017-196

Title: Seafood Marketing Symposium 2018 Showcasing Our Seafood — A spectrum of opportunities

Research organisation: Queensland Seafood Marketers Association

Principal investigator: Marshall Betzel

Period of funding: June 2018 to October 2018

FRDC program allocation: People 50% Industry 50%

Benefit: Funding for the project over the two years totalled a modest $0.06 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $0.20 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.14 million, a benefit cost ratio of 3.3 to 1, an internal rate of return of 26.7% and a modified internal rate of return of 9.5%.

Background and rationale

The Queensland Seafood Marketers Association has a principal function of promoting the quality of Queensland seafood. In 2017, a marketing symposium was held in Queensland focusing on the post- harvest sector and delivering quality products along the value chain. Presentations included examples from long-line harvesting, oyster growing, prawn promotion, product branding and retail strategies.

In 2018 a second symposium broadened the scope and attendance compared to the 2017 symposium.

It was contended that there was a continuing need for the seafood industry to better understand the market supply chain and keep up-to-date with new product development and marketing initiatives. The 2018 symposium was designed to address this industry need, and in particular:

  • how effective marketing can work at both an individual company and/or sector level,
  • showcase effective marketing to address both domestic and export demand,
  • new marketing channels and opportunities,
  • brand development the application of market segmentation.

Results/key findings

The symposium was considered successful by the Queensland Seafood Marketers Association and the symposium participants. It is likely that initiatives along the seafood marketing chains will evolve from ideas generated and discussed at the symposium.

The principal output from the project was a successful symposium held in brisbane in 2018. One of the outcomes of the symposium was an increase by many of the participants in their understanding of the marketing opportunities and marketing enhancements that were available. Participant exit forms from those who attended indicated a general desire for an annual symposium to be held as opportunities to access and discuss such information by many attendees were infrequent.

Apart from supporting the symposium financially, the FRDC supported six young people in various positions in seafood marketing by way of scholarships to attend. based on some limited feedback, the scholarship holders were unlikely to have attended the symposium without that support and those who provided information demonstrated that the symposium had assisted them with networking, updating software, hardware and social media.

Outcomes

  • An intermediate outcome was an increased understanding by participants in the seafood industry of marketing opportunities available to them.
  • However, details of any marketing changes made by participants as a result of attending the symposium are not available.
  • The participant exit forms supported an annual symposium in the future; it was suggested there were limited opportunities to access such information and current trends via other sources; however, it was considered necessary to avoid any clash with Seafood Directions as this would have a detrimental effect on both events.
  • The FRDC scholarship supported attendees were drawn from a wide range of geographic locations operating at different stages of the value chain. Scholarship holders, for example, included a:
  1. Western Australian marketing and communications company
  2. New South Wales trawler operator
  3. Torres Strait lobster fisher
  4. Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council project officer
  5. Seafood retailer from Victoria
  6. Northern Territory mud crab fisher.
  • A survey of the six scholarship holders resulted in four responses:
  • All four respondents stated that they would not have attended the symposium without the support of the scholarships.
  • One of the respondents (a retail business owner) stated she had benefited from a reassessment of how to create connections and lasting impressions, how to enquire those around her for their thoughts, and the importance of social media.
  • A second recipient responded “The program of speakers was inspiring, and the content was highly relevant to my role. Personally, it has improved my knowledge and capacity to serve the Tasmanian industry better. I have taken away several key messages in relation to optimising social media and how the consumer engages with ‘seafood’. Meeting the representatives from other states was fantastic, and I learned that we have a lot in common in terms of projects and marketing ideas.”
  • This respondent returned to her organisation and wrote a marketing and communication strategy for a brand new ‘Eat More Seafood’ campaign.

– A third respondent said a feature for him was the quality of the presentations with implications for product promotion for large companies as well as for small-scale businesses; however, networking was the most useful personal benefit and he learnt ways on how best to talk to people and how to promote

his product.

– The fourth respondent attended the symposium with her husband (also a small business owner). The material presented and the networking discussions applied therefore to one or both of the businesses they operate. Valuable insights from the event are now included in the fishing operation business and also are applied through involvement in the fishing industry (Western Australian Fishing Industry Council) or just by general communication to friends, family and others. Some insights communicated include:

> Educate consumers, chefs, fish and chip shops and retailers.

> Don’t assume they know or understand the process or the product.

> Don’t rely on location/provenance to promote/brand your product.

> build social licence to operate for access to the resource.

Since the symposium, the fishing business has developed its own social media profile (rather than being promoted under a group association banner) and they have encouraged chefs to tag us into their posts to create interest in our products from both consumers and other chefs.

Impacts

  In the short term, some increased and improved marketing and promotion activity along the seafood value chains potentially may have resulted in increased profitability across a range of seafood businesses.

  In the longer term, the innovative marketing capability and capacity of some personnel attending the symposium potentially will have been enhanced.

  Regional economies associated with seafood will indirectly benefit in the longer term from improved seafood supply chain profitability.

Public versus private impacts

The impacts produced from the project investment were predominantly private in nature and shared between individuals, seafood businesses and by specific seafood industries. Some public benefits will have been delivered through improved capability and capacity.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE CATEGORIES OF PRINCIPAL IMPACTS FROM PROJECT 2017-196

Economic

  • In the short term, some increased marketing and promotion activity along the seafood value chains potentially may have resulted in increased profitability across a range of seafood businesses; this is likely to have been driven by increased networking associated with cost reductions along the supply chain and increased product demand.

Environmental

  • Nil

Social

  • In the longer term, the innovative marketing capability and capacity of some personnel attending the symposium potentially will have been enhanced.
  • Regional economies associated with seafood will indirectly benefit in the longer term from improved seafood supply chain profitability.

Conclusions

The investment in this project will likely be translated into improvements in profitability in some Australian seafood supply chains for both wild-catch fisheries and aquaculture.

Funding for the project over the two years totalled a modest $0.06 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $0.20 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.14 million, a benefit cost ratio of 3.3 to 1, an internal rate of return of 26.7 per cent and a modified internal rate of return of 9.5 per cent.

As only two relatively minor impacts of those delivered were not valued, the investment criteria as provided by the valued benefit are likely to cover the impacts delivered adequately. However, confidence in the assumptions made to value the impacts was considered to be only low.

Program 5: Adoption

Adoption is the use of knowledge arising from RD&E. A core activity in which the FRDC invests is extension (the E in RD&E) — and these activities assist, educate, make aware or facilitate end users taking the knowledge and utilising it. This ranges from undertaking communication activities such as direct communication (FISH magazine and websites), conferences and meetings, through to transforming R&D outputs into appropriate mediums to support stakeholder decision making, assist with achieving their objectives, and inform the broader community.

Principal inputs

During 2019–20, there was $2.75 million or around 9.5 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.

Examples of project activity during the year

Connecting health professionals with sustainable seafood

Project 2018-092

For further information: Nicole Senior, nicolesenior [at] ozemail.com.au

NATIONAL PRIORITY

INFRASTRUCTURE

PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

ENVIRONMENT

INDUSTRY

COMMUNITIES

PEOPLE

ADOPTION

Combined information on the health benefits and sustainability of Australian fish stocks will help health professionals confidently recommend that clients eat more Australian seafood.

Want to protect your brain, heart, eyesight and bones? Evidence from a growing body of international research shows that eating fish and other seafood has a powerful role to play in doing just that. but confusion over which species are sustainable has often stymied Australian healthcare professionals who want to recommend that their clients eat fish.

To address this issue the FRDC has worked with dietitians to create new resources specifically for health professionals that combine information on both the health benefits and sustainable Australian species.

The SAFS reports already provide a publicly accessible and rigorously tested scientific benchmark for the sustainability of commercially wild-harvested fish species. The reports are updated every two years, and the latest release, in March 2019, includes 120 species that make up the bulk of available Australian seafood.

The FRDC identified healthcare professionals as a key influencer group to Australians selecting food and an excellent conduit for behaviour change in the broader community. Materials includes dietitians, nutritionists, primary healthcare nurses and public health practitioners. Secondary influencers who will also be included are home economists (such as food educators), food scientists and food technologists. All these groups share a commitment to scientific evidence that is also shared by the FRDC.

The evidence brought together international research findings about seafood and health, to underline the health benefits of seafood consumption. It addresses not just disease-related findings, but also the protective benefits of seafood that consumers can proactively take advantage of, to optimise their health throughout life.

Key findings include:

  • Two serves of fish and other seafood a week is recommended as part of many national dietary guidelines, Fish may help reduce the risk of obesity and improve cognitive performance in children and adolescents.
  • Fish in the diet of children may reduce their risk of asthma.
  • Evidence supports fish and other seafood as a cardioprotective food.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood are important for metabolic health.
  • Fish consumption is associated with better bone health in older people.
  • Fish and other seafood consumption is associated with reduced risk of depression.
  • Fish consumption supports eye health.
Lessons from across the seas

Project 2017-132

For further information: Chris Calogeras, chris [at] c-aid.com.au (,) http://www.frdc.com.au/ Partners/National-Priorities-and-Subprograms/Indigenous-Reference-Group

NATIONAL PRIORITY

INFRASTRUCTURE

PARTNER: Jurisdiction

PARTNER: Industry

COLLABORATION

ENVIRONMENT

INDUSTRY

COMMUNITIES

PEOPLE

ADOPTION

Cultural pride, leadership and collaboration were highlights of an Australian delegation’s trip to learn more about Ma-ori involvement in New Zealand fisheries.

Learning how to harness both economic benefits and cultural wellbeing for Indigenous Australians through involvement in seafood provided the drive for a trip to New Zealand by members of the FRDC’s Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.

The Australians were guests at the 2019 Ma-ori Fisheries Conference, where they presented and were later honoured to be the first ever non-members to attend the annual general meeting — a collective of Ma-ori fishing groups.

The purpose of the trip was to develop stronger relationships between New Zealand and Australian First Nations peoples, in order to share knowledge and experience related to operating in fisheries and aquaculture. The Australian delegation returned home buoyed by the experience and confident about the promise for Indigenous Australians in Australia’s seafood industry.

The trip provided insight into the strategies and policies that have either hindered or assisted the economic and cultural development of First Nations peoples in New Zealand, and how these learnings can assist in Australia.

United community

Now in its eighth consecutive year, the Maori Fisheries Conference was held in Auckland, with more than 300 people attending including the Australian contingent. The theme of the 2019 conference was ‘Te ha- o Tangaroa kia ora ai ta- ua’ — ‘the breath of Tangaroa sustains us’. Tangaroa means ‘God of the Sea’, and the theme spoke to the interconnectedness of humanity with the environment, underpinning the purpose of the Ma-ori Fisheries Trust, Te Ohu kaimoana, and the work it undertakes to protect Maori fishing rights.

Members of the IRG delivered a presentation on Indigenous fisheries in Australia, with Matt Osborne presenting on the IRG’s Indigenous fisheries research advisory role for the FRDC. Shane Holland gave an overview of native title and access to aquatic resources for Indigenous Australians and Chels Marshall spoke about some of the key research projects that have been funded, such as the identification of values placed on fishing by Indigenous Australians.

The conference really emphasised the strength of working together and that, although it can be slow, it is far more substantive than moving forward in isolation.

The visit is part of the FRDC’s longer-term investment in the Indigenous Fishing Subprogram, activities such as participation in the conference will continue to be undertaken as part of ensuring that fishing and seafood industry focused RD&E delivers improved economic, environmental and social benefits to Australia’s Indigenous people. It also provides an opportunity to build a strong relationship with Maori fishery stakeholders to learn from them how they have got to where they are today.

Their combined presentations ‘What’s happening in Australian fisheries’ can be viewed at https://youtu.be/ lD9ybxydRCA.

Benefit cost analysis

An impact assessment of FRDC investment in Communicating the research management and performance of Tasmanian marine resource industries by video

Project: 2017-106

Title: Communicating the research, management and performance of Tasmanian marine resource industries by video

Research organisation: University of Tasmania

Principal investigators: Caleb Gardner and Julian Harrington

Period of funding: year ending June 2018

FRDC program allocation: Adoption 100%

Benefit: Funding for the small promotional video project totalled $0.21 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.04 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.83 million, a benefit cost ratio of 4.93 to 1, an internal rate of return of 21.0% and a modified internal rate of return of 11.2%.

What the report is about

This report presents the results of an impact assessment of FRDC investment in a project to communicate and promote Tasmanian commercial wild-catch and aquaculture industries. The investment was driven by a perceived need to better communicate to stakeholders, including the Tasmanian Government and the wider community. The ultimate aim was to showcase the marine resource industries in Tasmania, their research excellence, achievements and impacts, and attract future resources and community support. FRDC project 2017-106 addressed these objectives by producing a series of promotional videos for usage by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC).

A need was identified by both IMAS at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC) to better communicate and promote fisheries and aquaculture research and industries in Tasmania. The production and use of short videos was selected as an effective means of meeting these needs, largely because they could be used in various situations.

Through the Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration Agreement with the Tasmanian Government, the UTAS and IMAS fund and undertake world-class research into temperate marine and coastal fisheries and aquaculture, support the effective and sustainable management of Tasmanian marine resources, and ensure maximum benefits accrue to the Tasmanian environment, economy and industries. Videos for IMAS were intended to explain the range and excellence of research investments associated with Tasmanian fisheries.

The videos for TSIC were to showcase the seafood industries (both wild-catch and aquaculture). Economies were foreseen by both organisations in pooling resources to produce the videos for the two organisations. The research-oriented videos were part of the communication plans for both organisations. In addition, a longer video was planned to address environmental issues and research in Macquarie Harbour, where salmon aquaculture was expanding, and provide information that was balanced and educational for the general community.

IMAS videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/user/IMASTas/videos. The industry videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyy4OLlzz-yOjLCvdiETakg.

Results/key findings

The videos have contributed to increased awareness and understanding of the wild-catch and aquaculture industries in Tasmania among a wide group of stakeholders including the general community, future research funders, including UTAS, and environmental regulatory authorities.

The videos were partly responsible for increased funding for marine research at IMAS, as well as a potential contribution to maintenance of the social licence to fish in Tasmania (wild-catch and recreational) and/or to further develop aquaculture industries (e.g. salmon).

OUTCOME-IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Outcomes

  • Both general community and internal support for IMAS activities have increased and has undoubtedly led to a much greater understanding that management of marine resources in Tasmania is backed by science.
  • The social licence of the industries and scientists to conduct marine research has been strengthened by the videos as advanced by people who watch them, for example at public events like Agfest (Caleb Gardner, pers. comm., 2020).
  • The Macquarie Harbour video has proved to be highly effective; this was achieved by taking a controversial topic and explaining the science. The video screenings have led to a more sensible debate within government and communities.
  • Such success could be repeated with the expansion of salmon farming into Storm bay by explaining issues such as whether the feed inputs used are sustainable and what happens to the salmon poo (Caleb Gardner, pers. comm., 2020).
  • UTAS has recognised fisheries and aquaculture research more over the last two years and part of this may have been due to the video releases. Two years ago UTAS focused heavily on lobster aquaculture; as a result of the videos UTAS now have three high level priorities for research at the College levels (salmon centre, lobster enhancement and wild-fisheries education); this has brought in more resources (Caleb Gardner, pers. comm., 2020).
  • Another example of a favourable outcome for the research videos follows. UTAS appointed a new vice-chancellor two years ago who attended the Australian Universities forum soon after he arrived — a national meeting of all the vice- chancellors in the country. The shellfish aquaculture video had been selected as the winner of the best research communication video nationally and was screened between courses at the vice-chancellor’s dinner; this showcased the UTAS research to every university leader in Australia and most importantly, showcased the IMAS research to the new leader (Caleb Gardner, pers. comm., 2020).

Impacts

  • The videos were partly responsible for increased funding for marine research at IMAS including several large infrastructure grants totalling $10 million to date and, prospectively, another $5 million in 2021
  • Contribution to information available to industry, government and the community regarding fisheries production and environmental interactions, in turn leading to more balanced environmental management policies
  • Some indirect contribution to maintenance of the social licence to fish in Tasmania (wild-catch and recreational) and/or to further develop aquaculture industries (e.g. salmon)
  • Improved community capability and capacity for understanding the conduct, structure and performance (including environmental integrity) of fisheries in Tasmania.

Public versus private impacts

Potential private impacts and their supply chains identified in this evaluation are related to Tasmanian wild-catch and aquaculture industries, through increased research funding with implications for future productivity and profitability. Other private impacts will be delivered via a contribution of the project to maintaining the social licence to fish.

Some public impacts may be delivered via an improved understanding by the wider community that, in turn, impacts on the Tasmanian government and its associated decision making on environmental management of fisheries.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE CATEGORIES OF PRINCIPAL IMPACTS FROM PROJECT 2017-106

Economic

  • Potentially, contribution to increased research funding for IMAS from Tasmanian fishery industries and UTAS.

Environmental

  • Contribution to information available to industry, government and the community regarding fisheries production and environmental interactions, in turn leading to more balanced environmental management policies.

Social

  • Contribution to maintaining the social licence to fish (including wild-catch, recreational and aquaculture).
  • Improved community capability and capacity for understanding the conduct, structure, and performance (including environmental integrity) of fisheries in Tasmania.

Conclusions

The investment in this project has driven increased research investment in Tasmanian fisheries; in turn this increased investment will provide benefits to Tasmanian industries as has been demonstrated in the past. Funding for the small promotional video project totalled $0.21 million (present value terms) and produced estimated total expected benefits of $1.04 million (present value terms). This gave a net present value of $0.83 million, a benefit cost ratio of 4.93 to 1, an internal rate of return of 21.0 per cent and a modified internal rate of return of 11.2 per cent.

As two further potential impacts were identified but not valued in monetary terms, the investment criteria as provided by the valued benefit is likely to be an underestimate of the total value of the project investment.