Lead, collaborate and partner

The FRDC has officially launched its Research, Development and Extension Plan to guide fisheries and aquaculture research priorities to 2020

Leadership Program participants celebrate the launch of the new FRDC RD&E Plan with Patrick Hone (left) and Senator Richard Colbeck (right).
Photos: Kyaw Kyaw Soe Hlaing

By Josh Fielding and Ilaria Catizone

During the next five years, the FRDC aims to increase the gross value of fishing and aquaculture from $2.41 billion in 2013-14 to about $3.2 billion. Its vision is to have vibrant fishing and aquaculture sectors that adopt world-class research and achieve sustainability.

The FRDC’s direction for 2015–20 is detailed in its new Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan, which signifies a major evolution in the way the FRDC operates.

The plan was launched on 16 September 2015 at Parliament House in Canberra by Senator Richard Colbeck, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture at the time.

‘Lead’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘partner’ are the three key implementation mechanisms that the FRDC will use: leading in national areas of research; collaborating with sectors and jurisdictions to achieve the national priorities; and partnering with industry sectors and jurisdictions, allowing them to determine their own research priorities.

In launching the new RD&E Plan, Senator Richard Colbeck supported the FRDC’s approach. “The Plan aims to drive change to benefit Australia’s fishing and aquaculture sectors more broadly. It will ensure these sectors continue to have excellent performance in environmental sustainability as well as business productivity and profitability,” he said.

He also acknowledged that Australia’s fisheries were among the best managed in the world, largely as a result of a commitment to investing in good science and applying these outcomes to fisheries management.

The new Plan is a step change and sets out quantifiable, measurable targets to allow for evaluation of the Plan annually and at the end of the five years. These targets include increasing the sector’s value over the five years of the Plan, while at the same time improving community satisfaction with the industry; community satisfaction is the FRDC’s first national priority.

Aquaculture has seen substantial growth in Australia in recent years. This growth has increased the availability of seafood and raised the overall value of fishing and aquaculture, but it has only occurred in a few species.

Aquaculture in Australia is well placed for further growth and the FRDC will invest in RD&E for the development of new or emerging opportunities for this sector. The aim is for significant growth in new and emerging species, taking aquaculture production in Australia from about 80,000 tonnes in 2012-13 to more than 100,000 tonnes by 2020.

Another major component of the RD&E plan, and part of the evolution of the FRDC’s operations, is the greater role that industry sectors and jurisdictions will play in planning and prioritising RD&E. “This plan recognises the significant capability in leadership for a large number of our sectors and leaders will be empowered to take the lead in prioritising research for their sectors,” Senator Richard Colebeck said.

Executive director Patrick Hone (left) and FRDC chair the Hon Harry Woods (right) discuss the new FRDC RD&E Plan with the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck.

“The Plan also focuses on recreational fishers and Indigenous fishers, who derive benefit from fishing activities. Fishing and aquaculture are vital for many rural and regional communities and underpin jobs and livelihoods throughout Australia, it is important that these sectors are appropriately supported,” Senator Richard Colbeck said.

The FRDC’s executive director Patrick Hone and FRDC chair the Hon Harry Woods also spoke at the launch.

“Today is a very important day for the FRDC and for our partners across fishing and aquaculture, be they commercial wild catch, fish farmers, recreational fishers or Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders,” Patrick Hone said.

“Today we go from plan development to plan delivery. This Plan marks a quantum change in how the FRDC invests in RD&E,” he saidThe core principles that will drive the Plan’s implementation are lead, collaborate and partner.

Nationally, the FRDC will work with LEAD bodies to deliver three national research priorities:

  • ensuring that Australian fishing and aquaculture products are sustainable and acknowledged to be so;
  • improving productivity and profitability of fishing and aquaculture; and
  • developing new and emerging aquaculture growth opportunities.

The FRDC will establish and support regional and sector partners to COLLABORATE ensuring that a united approach is achieved wherever possible. Importantly, the FRDC is committed to continuing its support for people development, the Indigenous Reference Group, Recfish Research and key services including the Fish Names database and SafeFish.

At an operational level this will change the way the FRDC invests. The FRDC will continue to invest through its open process, working with state, territory and Industry Partnership Agreements to invest in priority areas. However, it will also invest in initiatives to deliver on the national priorities. For example, it will fund the stock status reports for the life of the plan.

PARTNERING will devolve more responsibility to jurisdictions and sectors, allowing them to take greater ownership of how to invest. Jointly with its partners, the FRDC will support subprograms, infrastructure and services.

“While plans are great and full of good intentions, you are only as good as the difference you make,” Patrick Hone said. “The FRDC’s commitment is to ensure our performance is measurable and all the benefits are realised.”

The launch in Canberra was well attended, with more than 60 representatives from government and other stakeholder groups present.

Participants in the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program (NSILP), which is an important part of the FRDC’s People Development Program, also attended the launch as the program’s final residential session was also being held in Canberra at the time.

“Attending this event provides a unique opportunity for these young fishing and aquaculture leaders and one they would not have had before,” said Jill Briggs, managing director of Rural Training Initiatives, which runs the NSILP program for the FRDC. 

The FRDC’s 2020 performance targets:

  • fishing and aquaculture will continue to have improved performance in environmental sustainability;
  • fishing and aquaculture will be more resilient to social, environmental and economic change;
  • fishing and aquaculture businesses will be more productive and profitable;
  • recreational fishers will have improved opportunities for better fishing experiences and will play a greater role in the stewardship of fisheries resources;
  • more Indigenous people will derive benefit from fishing and aquaculture activities and will play a greater role in the stewardship of fisheries resources; and
  • information about the science and management of the sustainability of fishing and aquaculture will be more accessible to the consumer and meet consumer’s needs.

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