Fisher conversation helps shape industry pledge
Many community and industry values align, but further action is needed to help secure the social licence of the Australian seafood sector
By Jessica McInerney, SIA
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, says the association’s CEO Jane Lovell.
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’,” Jane Lovell says.
“It is based on Seafood New Zealand’s ‘Promise’ and will include the development of an annual report card along with independent monitoring of community sentiment.
“It is critical we get the right balance; if we are making a promise it needs to be achievable, but not just ‘business as usual’.
“We need to ensure the industry is consulted and accepts the pledge statements, before we make them public. It will require us to be proud enough to tell our story, but brave enough to listen and respond to the community.”
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 a broad range of stakeholders at these meetings, including: SIA members at a forum in Brisbane, Seafood Industry Victoria, Wildcatch Fisheries SA, Spencer Gulf and West Coast Fishermen’s Association, Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, Northern Territory Seafood Council, Western Australian Fishing Industry Council, Sydney Fish Market, the Abalone Association of Australasia, Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council, Australian Mariners Welfare Society, and Australian Fisheries Management Authority commissioners.
Northern Territory Seafood Council CEO Katherine Winchester says the workshop in the Northern Territory provided an important opportunity to help shape ‘Our Pledge’.
“It was great to hear the thoughts and conversations from Territory professional fishers,” she says. “These conversations build understanding and reiterate the importance for industry to do more than just tell its good story. There are concerns and issues the community wants to see the industry tackle.”
Spencer Gulf and West Coast Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Clark agrees, saying the industry is proud and excited to show the community what it does.
“There’s a broad range of views about the industry from highly favourable to suspicious. We want to demonstrate our authentic practices that help us look after the marine environment and contribute to the community,” he says.
For information on where and when workshops will be held, or to take part in a webinar (which can be organised for groups on request), visit the SIA website.
FRDC RESEARCH CODE: 2017-242