Unity sought on key industry messages

By Peter Horvat

With parts of its future uncertain, the fishing and aquaculture industry is at a crossroads, not as a result of its own performance, but because of the public perception of the industry’s overall sustainability globally.

Public concerns have been raised about catching methods, the use of fishmeal for fish feed, the effect on marine environments from climate change, and interactions with marine mammals and sharks, among other issues.

The industry, meanwhile, has its own concerns with effects of changes to climate, access to fishing grounds and conflict between fisheries sectors. The practices of recreational fishing have also been subject to greater public scrutiny, particularly interactions with shark species and catch-and-release methods for large pelagic fish, such as marlin.

These will need to be addressed in the coming year.Aquaculture has had a mixed year.

Some sectors reported solid growth while others have stalled. Despite its world-leading environmental performance, Australia’s prawn farming sector has achieved only marginal growth on production rates of five years ago.

Two FRDC reports in 2011 highlighted some issues for consideration at the consumer end of the supply chain.

The first looked at seafood supply in Australia and found that 72 per cent of seafood consumed in Australia is now sourced from overseas. The second identified that, at present, public perception of the fishing industry was not very good.

Responding to these concerns, the FRDC Board announced a new strategy to promote factual, science-based information. Previously the FRDC has primarily focused its extension and communication efforts on industry, managers and scientists.

Australia has an international reputation for excellence in its fishing and aquaculture science, and the performance of Australian fisheries management. Despite this, only 27 per cent of the Australian public considers wild-catch fishing sustainable.

The FRDC is addressing this perception through four linked strategies:

  • Industry unity – developing consensus on fishing and aquaculture through unified messages on key science issues.
  • Media relations – providing the FRDC’s science outputs in a format better suited for media use. Developing a whole of industry media science strategy and training science ambassadors to better present this information.
  • Community relations – engaging with regional and urban communities to showcase positive science stories.
  • Stakeholder advocacy ‘influencers’ – to work with both allies and detractors to develop an agreed ‘common language’ on issues where there are differences of opinion on the scientific evidence.

RD&E framework

Working together: the national fishing and aquaculture RD&E Strategy was endorsed by ministers at the Primary Industries Ministerial Council on 23 April 2010.

The implementation of the strategy is being led by the National Priorities Forum, and supported through an Extension Working Group and Research Providers’ Network.

The FRDC is playing a major role in all of these activities.

Federal Government inquiries

Over the past 12 months, the FRDC participated in and contributed to two federal inquiries that affect the FRDC and the fishing and aquaculture sectors.

One was the Australian Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the rural Research and Development Corporations.This report has now been released.

The second was the House of Representatives Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry Committee inquiry into the role of science for fisheries and aquaculture.  

Representative organisations

In September 2011 the National Seafood Industry Alliance became the fourth industry representative body the FRDC is accountable to, under federal legislation.

The other three representative bodies are Recfish Australia, Commonwealth Fisheries Association and the National Aquaculture Council.

By the numbers.

 Expenditure $ million
$ million
Total expenditure 25.76 29.68
Total of R&D projects

21.56 25.98
R&D Program 1 (Environment)
10.14 11.80
R&D Program 2 (Industry)
8.34 9.47
R&D Program 3 (Communities)
0.16 0.47
R&D Program 4 (People development)
1.90 2.12
R&D Program 5 (Extension and adoption)
1.02 2.12
Management and accountability
3.40 3.71
$ million  $ million
Industry contributions 8.46 7.65
Maximum matchable (government) contribution 5.50 5.56
Actual government matched 5.50 5.51
Government unmatched 11.03 11.12
Total government contributions 16.53 16.63
Project funds from other parties 1.12 0.50
Number of approved new projects 176 200
Total number of active projects under management 412 483
Number of final reports completed 111 129

More information

02 6285 0414