Priority 1. Ensuring that Australian fishing and aquaculture products are sustainable and acknowledged to be so
Continue to prioritise investment in RD&E that contributes to the sustainability of fishing and aquaculture, including consideration of target species; bycatch species; threatened, endangered and protected species; and the broader marine environment.
Build understanding of the drivers of social licence to operate and respond to community concerns and needs for information with science-based evidence.
During 2019–20, there was $1.34 million or around 4.6 per cent of the total R&D investment for this priority.
Perception of the commercial fishing industry increased from 28% to 40 by 2020.
Perception of industry increases to 36%.
The most recent survey of community perception (june 2019) shows that 46% believe the industry is sustainable. Results are available fromwww.frdc.com.au
The following table shows progress in achieving the deliverables in the FRDC’s RD&E Plan 2015–20.
The number of species in the national Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS) reports increases to include 200 species.
In 2016 the target was 114 species
In 2018 (160 species)
In 2020 (200 species).
Not achieved. One hundred and twenty species covering 406 stocks were assessed in the 2018 SAFS. The 2020 SAFS will contain 150 species. In addition, the FRDC delivered a Shark Report Card that covered and assessed 194 species comprising 199 stocks, of these 124 stocks were assessed to be sustainable at current levels of fishing.
The number of species classified as ‘undefined’ is reduced from the 2016 figure of approximately 30% to less than 10%.
In 2016 (~30%)
In 2018 (~20%)
In 2020 (<10%).
Not achieved. Current levels indicate undefined rates at 13%. Workshops have been undertaken in all jurisdictions to increase the use of methodologies to further reduce the number of ‘undefined’ species (Project number 2017-102: Reducing the number of undefined species in future Status of Australian Fish Stocks reports: Phase two — training in the assessment of data-poor stocks).
Positive perceptions of the commercial fishing industry increase from 28% to 40% by 2020 as measured through independently commissioned FRDC stakeholder surveys.
In 2016 (28%).
In 2017 (30%).
In 2018 (34%).
In 2019 (36%).
In 2020 (40%).
Achieved. The number of respondents who believe the community perception of the Australian fishing industry (as a whole) is sustainable is 46% in community perceptions survey.
Five-year review of priority 1
Priority 1 aim: by 2020, the community has effective access to, and understanding of, RD&E that supports fishing and aquaculture sustainability and informs improved perceptions of Australian seafood.
This priority aimed to not only underpin the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries through good R&D investment but also to increase awareness and inform community perceptions — a key metric for the priority. It is fair to say the FRDC exceeded expectations in these regards with community perceptions growing from 24 per cent for the commercial fishing industry and 40 per cent for all fishing and aquaculture in the 2015 survey, up to 37 per cent for the commercial fishing industry and 47 per cent for all fishing and aquaculture in the 2019 survey. Survey results are available from www.frdc.com.au
A significant body of work was done to achieve the aim including the release of three SAFS reports which saw around 90 per cent of the fish caught in Australia assessed, with a majority rated as sustainable. A key indicator was reducing the number of undefined stocks to less than 10 per cent of the total. Considerable work was undertaken with jurisdictions to review and access data and to minimise the number of undefined or unclassified fish stocks which has seen the number drop from 29 per cent in the 2014 report down to 13 per cent in the 2018 SAFS.
Following the 2016 edition, the FRDC and the SAFS advisory working group conducted a review aimed at improving future editions. Changes were made around stock status classification categories: the ‘environmentally limited’ classification was removed, the ‘overfished’ classification was replaced by ‘depleted’, and transitional stock categories became ‘recovering’ and ‘depleting’.
The SAFS reports not only provide a solid picture of the status of fish stocks assessed, but they have also harmonised approaches between jurisdictions.
Smartphone app for fish stocks
Another positive output was developing phone apps for both Google Play and Apple. The apps were designed to allow consumers to easily browse the information in the SAFS reports. The app makes the information on the status of Australia’s commercial fish species more accessible, distilling information from the SAFS reports into clear language appropriate to a lay audience.
Search SAFS Sustainable Fish Stocks in the Google Play Store (for Android) or the Apple App Store (for iPhone) now or visit https://www.fish.gov.au/app
Examples of project activity during the year
Tuna story to inspire new generation of fishers
For further information: Al McGlashan, al [at] almcglashan.com
The remarkable story behind the recovery of Southern Bluefin Tuna from an endangered species to a globally sustainable fishery is told in a recently released Australian documentary.
The combined efforts of Australian science, industry innovation and community education have been showcased in the documentary ‘Life on the line — The story of the Southern bluefin Tuna’, which tells the story of how these highly prized, temperate ocean dwellers were brought back from the brink of commercial extinction.
Produced and narrated by photojournalist and ardent fisher Al McGlashan, the documentary tells of how the Southern bluefin Tuna (SBT) (Thunnus maccoyii) stocks went into freefall due to overfishing and how the fish was rescued from its near demise. It also explains how the strategies and science that saved the SBT now stand as a sustainability model for fisheries worldwide.
Life on the line provides an engrossing insight into this warm-blooded marine species and its decade- long lifecycle that sees it reaching 200 kilograms and two metres in length by the time it has traversed the Southern Ocean. The film details the commercial pressures that decimated the SBT population and the extraordinary individuals who led its recovery, in the process creating a new, sophisticated industry worth more than $100 million annually in Australia alone.
The documentary was funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the FRDC, both of which were instrumental in the SbT success story, along with the CSIRO.
Two technological developments were particularly critical in the recovery of the species. First, Australia’s SBT fishers took the lead in developing a new approach, learning how to catch juvenile fish to grow them out in ocean pens off the coast of Port Lincoln, South Australia. The fishers became farmers.
The second was the advent of genetic ‘fingerprinting’ and satellite tagging for population monitoring and management. Given SBT begin life in waters off java and north-west Australia before they traverse the Southern Ocean beneath Australia and South Africa, these technologies remain crucial for setting evidence-based quotas that are now respected by all countries and markets with commercial interests in the species.
The SBT story starts in the early 1980s when the species’ red meat was so prized in markets such as japan — which consumes 80 per cent of the global catch — that a single fish could fetch tens of thousands of dollars. but this boom time for fishers was followed quickly by diminishing catches. by the time the market was peaking, the SBT population was already in terminal decline.
At the time, japan was still catching more than 40,000 tonnes of SBT a year and Australia about 21,000 tonnes, but the population was estimated to be at barely five per cent of 1960s levels.
Something drastic needed to be done and Australia took a leading role in setting up the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. The commission allowed the three main catching countries, japan, Australia and New Zealand, to manage the fishery cooperatively.
Without access to any reliable population data, the three countries estimated that a combined annual catch of 11,750 tonnes would allow stocks to recover. Instead, stocks kept falling. by 2004, the situation was critical and perplexing. A United States scientist on the conservation commission said it was clear that the quota was not being adhered to.
Confident in the records being kept by Australian fishers, Glenn Hurry arranged for a team led by Southern Australian Bluefin Tuna Association Chief Executive Officer Brian Jeffriess to visit japan and calculate how much SBT was being sold.
The numbers finally started to make sense and they gave fisheries management data that would allow a scientifically based approach to getting the fishery back to a biologically safe level. Critically, Australia resisted calls to close the fishery, arguing it needed to be kept open to help fund the necessary research.
This also gave the Port Lincoln-based industry the impetus to rethink its entire operation.
The answer the industry came up with was tuna farming, but no one had ever before attempted to ‘ranch’ wild SBT, an apex ocean predator that has to swim its body length every three seconds to stay alive.
The technique developed was to net juvenile tuna in the ocean, then tow them to inshore pens that are large enough and deep enough to allow the young fish to grow under free-range conditions until ready for harvest. Feeding the penned tuna also led to the development of a massive industry supplying locally caught pilchards, the tuna’s natural food in the wild.
The need to collaborate is one lesson learned, says Al McGlashan, and the other is the critical role of science. The documentary highlights, in particular, the research undertaken by the CSIRO in Hobart and by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania.
Principal CSIRO research scientist Richard Hillary has been monitoring SBT populations through an advanced mark and recapture model. This uses each tuna’s unique genetic ‘fingerprint’ for an identify- and-release program.
The technology takes advantage of high-throughput robotic DNA sampling adapted from human diagnostics and is able to compile a database of tens of thousands of fish. This is supplemented by satellite tagging of a representative sample of fish as they round the south-east corner of Australia.
The resulting population database enables an evidence-based approach to setting quotas. It has also facilitated a community education push that has seen recreational SBT fishers, too, become a part of the overall SBT research and management effort.
Principal investigator with IMAS Sean Tracey says recreational fishers and game fishing operators have become champions of SBT, with some also being involved in tagging as part of an increased emphasis on catch-and-release. With the recreational sector operating in different areas to commercial fishers, this wider community engagement has significantly extended researchers’ coverage.
Al McGlashan believes the SBT recovery is an inspiring story that should be known in the wider community for the lessons learned and for creating a shared sense of responsibility towards what he describes as an iconic marine species. SBT is officially assessed as ‘recovering’ in the SAFS reports.
To view the movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjdb1AVUnVI&feature=youtube
New guides to future fisheries
Project 2016-234, 2015-203, 2015-208, 2010-061
For further information: James Larcombe, james.larcombe [at] agriculture.gov.au and Alistair Hobday, alistair.hobday [at] csiro.au
Conversations around the sustainability of Australian fisheries have come a long way since the status of individual species was singled out as the primary indicator of performance. From a single species, to multi-species fisheries, bycatch, habitats and now even the performance of fisheries managers themselves — all of these have come under scrutiny as fisheries management continues to evolve.
New guidelines released in November 2018 are part of this increasingly integrated approach, adding to the rigour of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries management processes. They provide an evidence- driven approach that could also provide value in other fisheries jurisdictions around Australia. They are:
- Guidelines for the implementation of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy,
- Guidelines for the implementation of the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy.
The first of these, the revised Harvest Strategy Policy guidelines, was co-funded by DAWE and the FRDC, and is a companion to the updated Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy. The originals of both these harvest strategy documents were released in 2007.
In the Commonwealth, harvest strategies are a set of pre-agreed rules designed to achieve defined biological and economic objectives for commercial fish stocks in a given fishery.
The key biological objective in the policy is to maintain with high confidence all fish stocks above a biomass limit where the risk to the stock is regarded as unacceptable (the biomass limit reference point).
The primary objective was to maximise economic returns from each fishery. It formally introduced maximum economic yield as the target for Commonwealth fisheries management.
Since the introduction of the first Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy in 2007, overfished or depleted stocks have been rebuilding. No fish stock solely managed by the Commonwealth has been classified as subject to overfishing since 2012. The value of Commonwealth fisheries has seen improvements over the same period.
James Larcombe says these results, and the generally positive feedback from stakeholders, pointed to the success of the original Harvest Strategy Policy and guidelines. but following an extensive review, the second edition of the Policy have been updated to incorporate more than a decade of new fisheries science and experience in implementing harvest strategies along with feedback from stakeholders.
Some key changes include the application of the policy to by-product species, more direction on meeting environmental and economic objectives in multi-species fisheries, additional clarity around internationally managed fisheries, and guidance on applying harvest strategies under changing environmental and climatic conditions.
“In this edition of the guidelines we have also really focused on how to design harvest strategies that target maximum economic returns across the wide range of fisheries that AFMA [Australian Fisheries Management Authority] manages,” James says. “For example, in the valuable Northern Prawn Fishery, harvest levels are determined from a complex bioeconomic model designed to maximise future profits across four different species.
“In the guidelines we also suggest approaches that are suitable for smaller, lower value fisheries, and other kinds, that seek to balance the costs of implementing a harvest strategy while at the same time delivering on the policy requirements for sustainability and profitability.”
Australian management agencies have been on the front foot for many years when it comes to managing for, and demonstrating, the sustainability of fisheries. While many countries have a harvest strategy; Australia is one of the few that has a bycatch policy as well.
The Guidelines for the implementation of the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy, which supports the Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy were originally developed in 2000.
Key revisions in the policy include improved guidance on species classification and policy coverage for all species, and the inclusion of a risk-based approach to monitoring, assessing and managing bycatch. There is consideration of cumulative impacts on bycatch species, and a performance monitoring and reporting framework is also provided.
The bycatch guidelines provide impetus to improve data collection to help fishers demonstrate that they are meeting the obligations. This was identified as a gap in existing practices, and has reinforced the need for cost-effective and smart data collection through technologies such as electronic monitoring and digital logbooks, which can provide fast, easy and accurate reporting, in near real time.
The development of the new bycatch guidelines was funded by DAWE.
The Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and guidelines — http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ fisheries/domestic/harvest_strategy_policy
The Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy and guidelines — http://www.agriculture.gov.au/fisheries/ environment/bycatch/review
The Best practice guidelines for Australian fisheries management agencies is available from — http:// www.frdc.com.au/media-publications/fish/FISH-Vol-27-2/New-guides-to-future-fisheries.
Priority 2. Improving productivity and profitability of fishing and aquaculture
Invest in RD&E to understand the drivers of, and impediments to, productivity and profitability growth in all fishing and aquaculture sectors; research means of increasing sustainable production and profitability; link these to business education; encompass the needs of Indigenous communities.
During 2019–20, there was $0.99 million or around 3.4 per cent of the total R&D investment for this priority. The following table provides a guide to progress in achieving the deliverables in the FRDC’s RD&E Plan 2015–20.
Provide RD&E to support increased trade of fishing and aquaculture products into countries with free trade agreements by some 300%.
Three hundred per cent
Achieved. Rocklobster and salmon are now exporting direct to China (estimated to be worth over $600 million a year, up from $56 million for these two species). Trade database is being utilised by industry. FRDC coordinated fishing and aquaculture input into the development of European Free Trade Agreement.
Understand the quantity of potential production from Australia’s fishing and aquaculture resources.
One report completed on quantity of potential production from Australia’s fishing and aquaculture resources.
Achieved. Project 2016-056 measured Australia’s wild-catch production potential at 293,500 tonnes, a substantial increase on the 166,000 tonnes caught in 2016–17.
Increase knowledge to improve the utilisation of fisheries resources by Indigenous Australians.
Two reports completed.
Achieved. Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) undertaking scoping project to collect Indigenous catch data. IRG undertaking work to extend the knowledge of R&D undertaken over past five years.
Increase knowledge to identify obstacles and opportunities to increase productivity through habitat.
Two reports completed.
Achieved. National Habitat Strategy completed (Project number 2015-501 Recfishing Research Subprogram: Empowering recreational fishers as champions of healthy fish habitat). New project initiated to undertake social and economic assessment of the value of recreational fishing.
Five-year review of priority 2
Priority 2 aim: by 2020, deliver RD&E for fishing and aquaculture to increase productivity and profitability consistent with economic, social and environmental sustainability.
This priority focused on improving the productivity and profitability of the seafood industry. This is a difficult area to assess at a micro level (every fisher or fishery), however at the macro level the gross value of production for the fishing and aquaculture increased from around $2.5 billion in 2014–15 up to $3.1 billion in 2018–19 before a marked reduction in 2019–20 (down to $2.6 billion) because of COVID-19. It is important to note, should COVID not have happened the value of fishing and aquaculture was expected to increase to around $3.4 billion. Overall, most industries improved their positions during the five-year RD&E plan period. This combined with a better community perception is a good outcome for fishing and aquaculture.
FRDC project 2016-056 measured Australia’s wild-catch production and found there was a far greater potential national catch (see project overview on following page).
The FRDC’s Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) initiated the project ‘building the capacity and performance of Indigenous fisheries’, released in june 2018, which analysed seven initiatives across six fisheries jurisdictions. The project found that fishery assets contribute only a small amount to the total economic wellbeing of Indigenous communities. Communities vary greatly in their understanding of their fishery assets and in their engagement with, access to and use of marine or freshwater fishery resources. As part of the project, seven case studies were developed with community participants about actual or proposed fishery initiatives to identify processes that have worked and potential barriers to be overcome. The project identified six attributes for an Indigenous fisheries venture that provide a sound foundation for success. The IRG continues to work on this issue, extending the knowledge and assisting Indigenous communities to develop new opportunities.
Examples of project activity during the year
For further information: Richard Little, rich.little [at] csiro.au and David Smith, david.c.smith2 [at] bigpond.com
In recent years, Australia’s wild-harvest fisheries have averaged a yield of 166,000 tonnes, a decline of almost 30 per cent on our ‘peak fish’ production. That was in 2004–05, when 236,000 tonnes were harvested. While some fisheries continue to attribute the reduction in yields to dwindling fish stocks, there has been a substantial investment in fisheries research and management over more than a decade to ensure this is not the case.
More fish in the sea
Researchers undertaking a FRDC-funded project identified that current fished stocks, rebuilt to the baseline where necessary, could allow for double the current harvest, which would set a new peak for the industry.
The project team, led by the CSIRO, included fisheries scientists from each jurisdiction, who calculated the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for 290 fish species and stocks (as some species have multiple stocks). These species represented 84 per cent of the average national catch for the period (2014–15 to 2016–17).
This allowed the team to estimate what the biomass and sustainable harvest volume could be for each of these species. MSY was used as a consistent reference point for the calculations (not as a recommended target for fishing). In practice, some jurisdictions and species have different reference points, such as maximum economic yield (MEY).
The project used a three-year catch average as the basis for calculations, which also includes 27,000 tonnes of fish from stocks that were unable to be assessed as part of this project.
When researchers tallied the total MSY for the 290 species and stocks they were able to assess, it came to 345,000 tonnes compared to an actual catch of 139,000 tonnes of these species. That is an additional 206,000 tonnes, and a potential national catch of 371,500 tonnes.
Small pelagic species such as Australian Sardine, mackerels and redbait were big contributors to the potential increase, although, in practice, the total allowable catch set for these species is highly conservative. This reflects the role these species play in the ecosystem: they are the foundation of the food chain for many ocean species, including birds and mammals.
Recognising this, the researchers also recalculated the potential national catch using the current total allowable catches for the small pelagic species rather than MSY, adding this to the MSY total for the other assessed species.
This reduced the potential national catch by 78,000 tonnes to 293,500 tonnes, still a substantial increase on the 166,000 tonnes caught in 2016–17.
The project did not consider any changes to fish biomass that might result from climate change, nor the development of any new fisheries or harvesting of other products, such as seaweeds. It was also based on all fish stocks being above a reference point that achieves MSY, including some species that are not currently assessed as sustainable, such as Snapper (South Australia) and Blacklip Abalone (Central Western Zone, Tasmania), which will need to rebuild their populations.
Priority 3. Developing new and emerging aquaculture growth opportunities
Identify research constraints to industry growth — such as potential markets, cost of production, survival, deformities and uniformity of growth — and invest in RD&E to identify opportunities for successful and competitive commercial activity.
During 2019–20, there was $0.8 million or around 2.8 per cent of the total R&D investment for this priority.
Advance two or more new or emerging aquaculture opportunities/specie for which RD&E has identified clear opportunities and technologies for good production and profitability growth, as measured by increases in harvest tonnages.
Two thousand tonnes of additional production.
Achieved. While national government production statistics are not available (data privacy for producers in some jurisdictions) it is clear from company records that production has increased. Further, the three-year R&D for Profit projects on developing new white fish (yellowtail kingfish) was completed during the year and the project facilitates expansion. New leases allocated for an additional 48,000 tonnes of production.
Five-year review of priority 3
Priority 3 aim: by 2020, deliver sufficient RD&E for significant commercialisation of at least two new or emerging aquaculture growth opportunities with demonstrated potential for profitable business operations.
This priority focused on growing the value of aquaculture. Again, the results over the five years were very positive. key farming sectors such as Atlantic Salmon and barramundi both increased production and value. The aquaculture sector also saw significant inflow of investment and expansion across all areas.
A signature investment for the FRDC was into further developing yellowtail kingfish. The goal was to put more yellowtail kingfish on more Australian dining tables, as a ‘white flesh’ fish option for domestic household consumption. Central to this has been the ‘kingfish for Profit’ (k4P) research program which was cofounded with the Australian Government providing a $3.65 million grant through the then Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Rural R&D for Profit program. Contributions from other partners including the FRDC brought the total project funding to $7.3 million.
The research program has brought this consumption goal a step closer, improving both the production efficiency and profitability benchmarks of yellowtail kingfish aquaculture. At the beginning of the k4P project in 2016, national yellowtail kingfish production was estimated at about 1200 tonnes. The FRDC anticipated that this would increase to about 5000 tonnes by 2022, which industry is on track to deliver. by the end of 2018, as the project was winding up, production projections had increased along with allocations of potential farm sites. The independent benefit cost analysis for the project suggests that over a 15-year timeframe a $17.20 benefit will be realised for every dollar invested in this program based on projections of 48,000 tonnes of yellowtail kingfish a year by 2030.
Additionally, towards the end of the RD&E Plan 2015–20 there was a new focus on farming species of oysters more suited to tropical climates. The research has led to developments in the north and west of Australia emerge, with significant investment and lease (water) space allocated. It is likely the investment undertaken will take several more years to complete and for the value and potential of the new oysters to be measured.
It is important to note that aquaculture while having expanding and increasing production still faced serious issues from disease. During the period two significant disease outbreaks occurred — White Spot Virus in prawns and Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome. both of these required significant effort from all stakeholders (management agencies, researchers and industry) and this effort is now paying off with both prawns and oysters back on the road to recovery and expansion.
Examples of project activity during the year
Australian aquaculture is coming of age with increasing scale and diversity
Multiple project codes
For further information: Wayne Hutchinson, wayne.hutchinson [at] frdc.com.au
Aquaculture production worldwide has been growing at a rate of almost 8 per cent a year for the past decade — growth that is expected to continue at a similar rate for many years to come, to support the world’s increasing food protein needs.
In Australia, growth has been less rapid, averaging about 4.3 per cent a year for the decade to 2017–18, but is still rising with increasing demand for seafood and the influence of food media, such as MasterChef. Popular programs like this have increased consumer awareness of seafood provenance, sustainability, quality and traceability — all strengths of aquaculture.
While the sector accounted for 36 per cent of Australia’s total seafood production in 2017–18, this represented 44 per cent of the value: 97,406 tonnes worth $1.41 billion from the total seafood production of 271,133 tonnes worth $3.2 billion.
It is clear that aquaculture will continue to be the driving force for growth in Australian seafood and has been a significant focus for the FRDC, forming a large part of its submission to the $100 billion Australian agriculture inquiry. In developing its submission, the FRDC also developed a data analysis tool to predict future GVP volume.
While this overview of activity builds on the two previous aquaculture forecasts the FRDC has written, it only focuses on the major sectors. Over the next 10 years, development is also likely to occur for new and emerging species including seaweed, Cobia, Queensland Grouper and tropical oysters.
Tasmania’s Atlantic Salmon industry is Australia’s most valuable seafood sector — wild or farmed — with 58,000 tonnes produced in 2018–19, worth $833 million.
Having doubled production during the past decade, the industry has exceeded its own expectations. Last year it revised its 2030 target from $1 billion in value to $2 billion.
Extensive marketing and product development have seen Atlantic Salmon become Australia’s most popular seafood. Stringent biosecurity measures protecting Tasmania’s salmon industry from external and internal disease threats have enabled them to reliably supply a high-quality product to domestic and international markets.
The Tasmanian Government continues to provide support for the industry, which is the largest agri- food contributor to the state’s economy. In 2017 the government released the Sustainable Industry Growth Plan for the Salmon Industry as part of major management reforms, streamlining processes and introducing additional steps to provide greater public and industry certainty.
This includes detailed mapping of areas suitable for expansion, as well as ‘no go’ zones, and also a commitment to deeper ocean sites, potentially outside state waters. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization believes that deep-ocean aquaculture, producing both plant and animal food products, will be a major global food resource for the future.
The Australian Government, which manages Commonwealth waters outside three nautical miles, outlined the need for legislative reform in its National Aquaculture Strategy. This is likely to include an amendment to the Commonwealth Fisheries Management Act 1991 to allow individual jurisdictions to extend their existing aquaculture regulations to adjoining Commonwealth waters.
In preparation for aquaculture in offshore waters, the Atlantic Salmon industry (both here and overseas) is working to develop pens specially designed for high- energy wind and wave conditions of exposed ocean sites.
Prawn farming has had a turbulent couple of years with the outbreak of White Spot Disease in 2016. The outbreak severely impacted the farms located in southern Queensland and resulted in a drop in production for the sector from 2016 to 2018, to about 4500 tonnes a year.
Over the next two to three years this volume is expected to double to about 10,000 tonnes. Further, larger increases are forecast out to 2025.
The disease outbreak has seen biosecurity and on-farm management become a major focus of efforts for prawn farmers (as it has for other aquaculture producers). However, it has not curbed the sector’s enthusiasm, with many businesses looking to scale up and increase production.
The Australian barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA) says production by its members is also continuing to increase and reached 9000 tonnes in 2018–19.
National statistics to date have not reflected the full extent of production, as data from two of Australia’s largest operators — Humpty Doo barramundi in the Northern Territory and MainStream Aquaculture in Victoria — has been excluded under commercial-in-confidence provisions. but both companies have agreed to allow their production statistics to be included.
The ABFA is anticipating a major increase in production in the next five years, with a production target of 25,000 tonnes by 2025. Investment in the infrastructure to achieve this is already underway.
Yellowtail Kingfish (YTK) farming has been evolving slowly in Australia for two decades. In 2016 YTK production was estimated at 1200 tonnes, and came almost solely from South Australia.
However, the recently completed $7.3 million kingfish for Profit (k4P) research collaboration, funded by DAWE and the FRDC, has helped to give production new impetus.
Fish producers, researchers and feed manufacturers came together in the three-year project, which has produced new findings on feed formulations, fish growth and water temperature that will help bring fish to market more efficiently and sustainably.
While predictions for the species’ potential production have been large — upwards of 60,000 tonnes across Australia — production is more realistically expected to remain at much lower levels in the near future, with producers targeting the premium food service sector markets in Australia and overseas.
The limited number of producers means that YTK is also not included in national fisheries statistics, although estimates for 2019 are for more than 4000 tonnes.
Despite Australia’s aquaculture revolving around a small number of key species, other species such as Murray Cod, Silver Perch, Cobia, Queensland Groper are now also stepping up and continue to grow.
Salmonids (Atlantic Salmon, trout)
Offshore farming is being established and will increase production, a counter to warming inshore waters, which reduce production.
Southern Bluefin Tuna
No major increase likely; a slight increase in quota might allow more fish to be ranched.
New farms and expansions on existing farms to increase production.
* Does not include production from Norther Territory or Victoria.
Yellowtail Kingfish (YTK)
Existing and new aquaculture leases in Western Australia expected to increase YTK production in coming years. South Australia also ramping up production.
Production based in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.
* Figure based on NSW production.
Totals include Silver Perch, Cobia, Queensland Grouper.
Expansions of prawn farms in the north are expected to increase production.
Stable but low production of yabbies, marron and Redclaw. New Moreton bay bug production underway.
Pacific Oyster production recovering from Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome in Tasmania. R&D underway for tropical blacklip Oysters.
No figures provided because of limited commercial operators.
Emerging aquaculture production.
FRDC National Priorities: Collaborate
The FRDC will provide the means (incentives) so that sectors or jurisdictions may leverage funding where there is alignment between their RD&E priorities and those at the national level. This will encourage sectors to collaborate. Specific areas of RD&E such as people development, service functions and social sciences will be actively supported by the FRDC.
During 2019–20, there was $3.44 million or around 11.9 per cent of the total R&D investment for this program.
The following table provides a guide on the progress the FRDC has made in meeting its output target.
Invest $360,000 into collaborative projects.
The collaboration fund target was exceeded due to addition of external funds, such as the National Carp Control Plan which was deemed a collaborative program of activity.
Examples of project activity during the year
Community Trust in Rural Industries
For further information: Virginia Johnstone, virginia.johnstone [at] seftons.com.au or Emily Ogier, emily.ogier [at] utas.edu.au
The FRDC is part of the Community Trust in Rural Industries collaborative project, run by AgriFutures Australia, and jointly funded by the rural RDCs.
The project aims to explore the issues around community trust in rural industries. It will examine the risks, threats, and/or opportunities for primary production based on the community’s trust. The project will provide FRDC stakeholders with insights into similarities/differences between seafood and other rural industries, and where there may be opportunities to collaborate with other industries for improving trust and acceptance.
Year 1 research results are available from the project webpage — http://frdc.com.au/project/2019-042. Key messages from the first phase of the research include:
- Trust is important and offers producers the licence for innovation (to improve) and ultimately freedom to operate — but only when trust exists.
- The ‘community’ does not see Australian rural industries the way those who work in them do.
- Trust in rural industries is generally strong but levels of trust vary across the community and by industry.
- Levels of trust in Australian fisheries and aquaculture industries are moderate compared with other rural industries.
- Forty-three per cent trust Australian fisheries and aquaculture industries; 39 per cent don’t know and 18 per cent don’t trust.
- The research identified the three strongest drivers of the community’s trust in rural industries as:
- Environmental responsibility — having confidence that industries are using the land and sea in a sustainable, responsible way with minimal impact or damage, and not sacrificing the environment for profit.
- Responsiveness — industry demonstrating that they are listening to, respecting and responding to community concerns and perspectives.
- Products of rural industries — the community highly values the sector’s outputs; from the nutrition they provide in the Australian diet to raw materials for Australian manufactured goods.
Priorities for industry to improve trust include:
- The community wants to know it is being heard and understood by rural industries and seeks ongoing reassurance that their concerns are being addressed. This requires industry to be responsive to community attitudes and to communicate any changes. The community does not expect industry to be faultless, but it does expect industry to proactively engage on areas of community concern, and in turn respond to breaking issues and crises quickly.
- There is opportunity for industries to respond productively and consistently. The research showed that one industry acting irresponsibly negatively affects the community’s opinion of all rural industries. Having available guidance on best-practice approaches will empower industries to build trust in their own industries and in the sector.
- The community’s main information sources are the internet, television news, television current affairs and social media. These channels can be used by industry to communicate action and engage directly with the community, particularly on those issues where large portions of the community were uncertain — such as whether rural industries listen to and respect community concerns, responsible water use and rural industries’ waste products/run-off causing environmental damage to coastal areas.
An extra survey during COVID-19 found that levels of trust in Australian rural industries increased during this period, highlighting that community trust can be changed or that COVID-19 has demonstrated how important farmers and fishers are to the community — namely people need food.
Future research will focus on which industry strategies can improve trust in the longer term, with key topic areas including water use, animal welfare and food safety.
Building resilience in fisheries
For further information: Renae Tobin, renae.tobin [at] jcu.edu.au
Change is inevitable, whether it be management, environmental or economic. Improving how industries cope with and adapt to change becomes increasingly important as rates and cumulative effects of change escalate.
A collaborative team from James Cook University, CSIRO, Fisheries Queensland (within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries), and the Queensland Seafood Industry Association worked together to explore how different types of fishing businesses adapted to different types of change within Queensland’s east coast fisheries.
The team documented the diversity of Queensland’s east coast commercial fishing businesses and developed innovative types of business models. It then explored whether there were key characteristics within these business types that improved access to adaptation options, and whether there were common challenges or constraints to adaptation across the industry and between business types.
The findings highlighted the complexity of the industry and the individual nature of responses to change, with no clear ‘recipe for success’ or predictor of failure. Communication and shared learning were critical, and managers as well as representative bodies and industry leaders need to develop communication mechanisms that are currently lacking. Within the industry, fishers feel a lack of security, which seems to stem from uncertainty in future management plans. This leads to an incapacity to plan, experiment and adapt successfully to change in the long term.
Sustainable Fishing Families project
For further information: Tanya King, tanya.king [at] deakin.edu.au
In recent years, concern for the health, safety and wellbeing of the professional wild-catch fishing industry has been growing in Australia. In response, this project conducted the first national survey of the health, safety and wellbeing of the Australian professional fishing industry. The results of the survey undertaken in 2017 provide a baseline for the state of wild-catch industry members across a range of indicators, including reported physical and mental health; factors affecting health and safety; factors affecting levels of stress; health and safety behaviours; and access to health services and information.
The project also conducted and evaluated an intensive pilot program specifically tailored for fishing families. The program was modelled on an existing and highly successful program, Sustainable Farm Families™, developed and delivered by the National Centre for Farmer Health at the Western District Health Service, Victoria. The materials and presentations were reviewed and modified to reflect the specific strengths and challenges of the fishing industry.
This award-winning program is now available for use by fishing communities across the country. The Sustainable Fishing Families project was a collaboration of academic and practical expertise and included participants from Deakin University, the National Centre for Farmer Health, University of Tasmania and the University of Exeter, United kingdom.
FRDC National Priorities: Partner
Jurisdictional and industry sector research priorities
Under partnership agreements the RD&E priority-setting process will be led by the relevant sector or jurisdiction. As part of this process the FRDC has put in place a requirement that each group maintain a balanced portfolio (see the table that follows and pages i–iv). Project selection and approval while accepting recommendation from the groups remains the responsibility of the FRDC board.
In the tables that show the status of deliverables, the icons below mean that:
Partner is performing well. For example, RD&E Plan in place; investment targets being met; priorities are being funded; and projects are on time and delivering.
Partner partially meets expectations. For example, RD&E Plan in place; priorities or investment targets not being met; and projects are on time and delivering.
Partner is not meeting expectations. For example, RD&E Plan not in place; or investment targets, priorities, or projects not delivering or being met; or budget under or over spent.
Industry Partnership Agreements
During 2019–20, there was $11.03 million or around 38.1 per cent of the total R&D investment for partnership agreements. This is 5 per cent above the AOP forecast budget.
The following tables provide a guide on the targets and progress the FRDC has made in achieving them during the year:
Partners have a RD&E plan.
Ninety-five per cent of partners have an RD&E Plan.
Partners invest in a balanced portfolio across the FRDC purpose themes — environment, industry, communities, people and adoption.
Investment portfolios include investment across FRDC purposes.
Australian Abalone Growers
Completed a new strategic plan 2020–25 that includes RD&E priorities. Research portfolio includes investment across FRDC purpose themes industry and adoption. key Research projects commenced to investigate and reduce summer mortality in farmed abalone.
Australian barramundi Farmers Association (AbFA)
Finalising new strategic RD&E Plan 2020–24. key activity includes completion of situational analysis for Australian farmed barramundi to guide future
AbFA advocacy activities and prioritisation of R&D. The CRC for Developing Northern Australia funded aquaculture industry situational analysis identified that barramundi farming will make a significant contribution to expansion of
aquaculture production across northern Australia.
Abalone Council Australia (ACA)
Held a workshop that focused on abalone assessment and management (what have we learned, what are the gaps and where can we do better) attended by industry representatives, researchers and managers (2018-193). The ACA have initiated a number of projects with a strong focus on improving industry data collection, data use and decision-making processes. These are key projects that will aid the management of the Australian abalone resource. In addition, the ACA hosted the 2019 Trans-Tasman Abalone and Paua Convention. The ACA remains engaged in the Fight Food Waste CRC and are exploring projects to optimise abalone use.
Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries (ACPF)
Good balance of investment across the portfolio. Several key projects made significant progress in the 2019–20 year (2018-172: Methods to profile and connect the provenance of wild-caught prawn fisheries and their values to the community and 2016-261: Investigating the use of trace element profiles to substantiate provenance for the Australian prawn industry).
both projects will heavily inform future investment and work for the IPA.
Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA)
Completed a new strategic plan 2020–25 that includes RD&E priorities. Good balance of investment across the portfolio. Completed several key projects which include impacts of White Spot Disease reoccurrence minimised by fortunate timing and increased biosecurity measures
implemented on prawn farms. Participated and helped complete CRC for Developing Northern Australia funded aquaculture industry situational analysis which identified that prawn farming will make a significant contribution to the expansion of aquaculture production across northern
Australian Southern bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA)
The ASBTIA IPA continued to focus investment into improving efficiencies in production of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT). In 2019–20 new projects focused on maximising product quality pre-harvest (2019-166: The effects of vitamins and feeding frequency on the extension of the colour shelf
life and maintenance of flesh quality of fresh and frozen SBT flesh) and post-harvest (2019-158: Investigate suitability of alternative bleeding practices of SBT post-harvest and their impact on product quality) to improve optimisation of the SBT resource.
While few projects were completed during the period, project 2016-044 (Next-generation close-kin mark recapture: Using SNPs [single nucleotide polymorphisms] to identify half-sibling pairs in SBT and estimate abundance, mortality and selectivity) yielded results that fed directly
into the international Commission for the Conservation of Southern
Bluefin Tuna quota-setting process.
Oysters Australia (OA)
Have commenced development of a new RD&E Plan (2020–24). New Oysters Australia Chair and Executive Officer are working to progress a new strategic R&D plan to guide future investment to address industry priorities.
Pearl Consortium (Pearls)
Good balance of investment across the portfolio. Completed several key projects which are informing future strategies and R&D investments continues to deliver important commercial outcomes.
Southern Ocean (SO)
Good balance of investment across the portfolio. key project was the collection of tissue samples from Antarctic Toothfish across the Southern Ocean and the identification and evaluation of markers for use in a close-kin biomass estimate to differentiate between Antarctic Toothfish stocks and any subsequent management implication.
Southern Rock Lobster Limited (SRL)
Good balance of investment across the portfolio. Completed several key projects which are informing future strategies mainly around supply chains and traceability (2018-176: Refine the Southern Rock Lobster cold chain and 2016-228: SRL IPA: Traceability systems for wild-caught lobster, via Sense-T and pathways to market).
Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association (TSGA)
The TSGA continue to invest in good levels of RD&E to underpin development of the industry, namely around aquatic animal health and development of vaccines (2019-164: TSGA-IPA: A five-year aquatic animal health R&D program for the Tasmanian salmonid aquaculture industry). There are some areas of RD&E which could be improved, specifically around areas of reputation and social acceptability.
Western Rocklobster Council (WRLC)
The WRLC IPA continues to be under-expended against the income. There has been an improvement in priorities and projects coming forward and expenditure next financial year is significantly up. New projects have included a collaborative project with Southern Rocklobster Limited and several projects seeking to understand biological elements related to recruitment and are likely to inform future management under changing environmental conditions, (2019-159: Developing an independent shallow-water survey for the Western Rock Lobster Fishery: tracking pre-recruitment abundance and habitat change, and 2019-099: Climate driven shifts in benthic habitat composition as a potential demographic bottleneck for Western Rocklobster: understanding the role of recruitment habitats to better predict the under-size lobster population for fishery sustainability).
FRDC National Priorities: National RD&E infrastructure
The FRDC has four subprograms (Aquatic Animal Health and biosecurity, Recfishing Research, Human Dimension Research and the Indigenous Reference Group) and one coordination program (Social Science and Economics Research Coordination).
The FRDC will continue to use the system of nation-wide groups and lead in these areas of RD&E. It will also lead in the areas of people development and service delivery.
During 2019–20, there was $3.44 million or around 11.9 per cent of the total R&D investment for this priority.
- Continue to invest in leadership capacity building.
- Co-invest with partners in other areas of capacity building.
- Invest with universities in students to study marine science-specific topics relevant to the FRDC’s stakeholders.
- Collect and analyse data to better understand the training needs of fishing and aquaculture.
- Partner in the development of research centres of excellence.
Examples of project activity during the year
Protecting the consumer
For further information: Shauna Murray, Shauna.Murray [at] uts.edu.au and Erik Poole, erikp [at] sydneyfishmarket.com.au
Capacity has been built to protect New South Wales consumers of Spanish Mackerel from the southward migration of ciguatera fish poisoning. Ciguatoxins (CTxs), which are generated by certain species of marine micro-algae, are responsible for what is the most frequently reported fish-borne illness across the world’s tropical regions — ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP).
but in Australia, an increasing number of people in subtropical regions have also started to be confirmed as suffering from CFP. Twenty years ago, CFP was unheard of in New South Wales, but the past two decades have seen at least 30 confirmed reports, with many more cases likely to be unreported. CFP symptoms include a combination of gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, typically a reversal of hot and cold sensation, which can last from days to several months.
CTxs are produced by single-celled Gambierdiscus micro-algae, a warm water-loving species, and work their way up the food chain to accumulate in predatory, apex reef fish species. Confirmed cases of CFP in northern New South Wales relate mainly to the consumption of Spanish Mackerel, with some reports related to Redthroat Emperor and Purple Rockcod in 2015.
The southern movement of CFP cases may appear slight, but it marks deeper underlying ecological shifts that are not well understood. Shauna Murray is leading two new research projects that she hopes will help identify what is causing those shifts and what can be done to update fisheries management practices to protect seafood consumers.
An earlier project funded by the FRDC and the Sydney Fish Market helped establish a new marine biotoxin facility at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), along with sophisticated ciguatoxin testing capabilities.
The SIMS facility is crucial to the new research projects that aim to identify and map the biological and ecological factors causing CTxs in Spanish Mackerel in New South Wales.
The key outcome of the project was to determine whether guidelines used needed to be updated to exclude potentially CTx-affected fish from sale. Current guidelines restrict catches from known CTx-affected sites and also prohibit the catch of certain fish species over 10 kilograms, to reduce the likelihood that fishers or consumers will eat fish that have a bioaccumulation of the toxins.
NSW Government Food Authority CFP risk management and current catch guidelines are available from http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/rp/fish-ciguatera-poisoning
RAC partnership agreements
During 2019–20, there was $6.17 million or around 21.3 per cent of the total R&D investment for jurisdictional RACs. This is 26 per cent below the AOP forecast budget. The drop is primarily the result of COVID-19 and its impact on public call funding rounds.
RACs exist with the Commonwealth (COM), New South Wales (NSW), the Northern Territory (NT), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Victoria (VIC), Tasmania (TAS) and Western Australia (WA).
The following tables provide a guide on the targets and progress FRDC has made in achieving them during the year.
Partners have a RD&E Plan.
Ninety-five per cent of partners have an RD&E Plan.
Partners invest in a balanced portfolio across the FRDC purpose themes — environment, industry, communities, people and adoption.
Investment portfolios include investment across FRDC purposes.
Good balance of investment across the portfolio. Number of key focus areas that include SBT in relation to the assessment and management. Climate was another focus area with two projects (2016-059: Adaptation of Commonwealth fisheries management to climate change; and 2016-139: Decadal scale projection of changes in Australian fisheries stocks under climate change) both looking at management and adaption strategies.
Research to support market opportunities for key New South Wales wild-caught species (2017-018: Improving survival and quality of crabs
and lobsters in transportation from first point of sale to market; 2016-173: Trade Mission: Creating a niche market for the supply of NSW wild-caught
mixed finfish to China through the GFRESH b to b E-commerce platform).
Development of FishPath tool to support the management of small, inshore fisheries (2015-215: Low cost management regimes for sustainable, small low-value fisheries based on coastal inshore species).
An understanding of how environmental flows link to the management of key commercial species (2015-012: Influence of freshwater flows on growth and abundance of barramundi and mud crab in the Northern Territory).
New investments addressed a range of priority areas including fishery- ecosystem interactions (2019-063: Assessment of the sustainability of common dolphin interactions with the South Australian Sardine Fishery; 2020-002: Quantifying the exposure, protection and recovery of seafloor habitats in Spencer Gulf to prawn trawling) and declining snapper abundances (2019-044: Quantifying post-release survival and movement of Snapper: Informing strategies to engage the fishing community in practices to enhance the sustainability of an important multi-sector fishery; 2019-046: Cost-effective, non-destructive solutions to developing a
pre-recruit index for Snapper). In addition, South Australia Research
Advisory Committee co-funded cultivation trials of the red seaweed (2019-144) as an emerging industry.
A key focus area this year was to address destructive urchin grazing. Two projects (2016-208: Waste to profit in urchin fisheries: Developing business opportunities to ensure fishery sustainability and safeguard reef dependent fisheries from destructive urchin grazing; and 2019-128:
Commercial upscaling of sea urchin processing waste as an agricultural fertiliser and soil ameliorant) are looking at utilisation, with one identifying a compound in urchins which can help with frost tolerance in some horticulture species. Another key activity has been the partnership with the Indigenous Reference Group to investigate opportunities and impediments
for Indigenous businesses to harvest and sell or market seafood.
Evaluate the economic and social contributions of commercial wild-catch fisheries and aquaculture to Victorian community wellbeing complete (2017-092: Valuing Victoria’s wild-catch fisheries and aquaculture industries).
Research to support the recovery of fisheries following the 2011 marine heatwave (2015-026: Understanding recruitment variation (including the collapse) of Saucer Scallop stocks in Western Australia and assessing the feasibility of assisted recovery measures for improved management in a changing environment; and 2011-762: Recovering a collapsed abalone stock through translocation).