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Table 17.9 shows the quantity produced and gross value of fishery production in the years 2005-06 to 2007-08.
Australian fisheries production covers total production from both Commonwealth and state-managed fisheries, including aquaculture. Commonwealth fisheries accounted for 13% of the total gross value of Australian fisheries production in 2007-08. Commonwealth fisheries are those managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority on behalf of the Australian Government. State and Northern Territory governments manage inland fisheries and aquaculture, in addition to those salt water fisheries not managed by the Australian (Commonwealth) Government, as described in Offshore Constitutional Settlement Arrangements.
Processing of fish, crustaceans and molluscs
Processing establishments vary in size, scope of operations and sophistication of technologies employed. The majority of establishments undertake relatively basic cleaning, filleting, chilling, freezing and packaging processes, although some have the capacity for significant product transformation. Much of the value that is added to the catch is due to correct handling and quick delivery by air to local or overseas markets. Processing aims to maintain quality and freshness of export product by superior handling, cold storage and rapid transport to markets. This quality aspect is important in generating high values.
Exports and imports
Exports of fisheries products come under Australian government jurisdiction, while domestic market activity is the responsibility of the states and territories.
A significant proportion of Australian fisheries production - edible and non-edible - is exported. In 2007-08 the total value of exports (including live fish) fell by 10% to $1.3b (table 17.10) as Australia lost its status as a net exporter of fisheries products. Rock lobster was the highest earning export, accounting for 30% of total value of exports of fisheries products. Although the value of abalone exports fell 12% they remained as the second most valuable single edible fisheries export product while exports of tuna (whole) jumped 26% to be the third most valuable edible fisheries export. Exports of the highest value non-edible earner, pearls, slipped back 16% to $264m in 2007-08. (For some fisheries categories, the value of exports exceeds the value of production because exports are valued on a free-on-board basis which includes the value of packaging and distribution services to the point of export.)
In 2007-08, Hong Kong continued as the major destination for Australian exports of fisheries products, taking $554m worth of product (excluding live) and accounting for 43% of the total value of Australian fisheries exports (excluding live). Japan - the number two destination - accounted for 29%, with the products valued at $382m. The United States of America and Taiwan followed with $96m and $45m respectively while exports to China lost further ground, now only taking one quarter of their 2005-06 shipment.
South Australia was the highest earning state from exports of seafood in 2007-08, with income of $339m accounting for 32% of the total value of Australia's seafood exports. South Australia earned $194m (57%) of this income from exporting fresh or frozen fish while Western Australia earned 85% of its seafood export income of $266m from rock lobster. Live fish earned Queensland 25% of its total seafood export income of $161m. Tasmania ($147m) and Victoria ($102m) each earned about two-thirds of their seafood export income from sales of abalone.
The total value of Australian imports of fisheries products in 2007-08 fell 5% to $1.4b (table 17.9). The major items of imports, in value terms, were fish ($715m) - a third 'canned' and nearly another third frozen fillets - prawns ($167m) and pearls ($166m). The two main source countries of imported fisheries products were Thailand ($297m) and New Zealand ($207m) which together accounted for 36% of the value of imports. Fisheries products from Vietnam ($142m) and China ($133m) continued to make a strong contribution, combining to account for one fifth of imports of fisheries products.
The Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) covers offshore waters between 3 to 200 nautical miles seaward of the territorial sea baseline of Australia and its external territories. This area of almost 9 million square kilometres makes it an expanse 16% larger than the Australian land mass and the third largest fishing zone in the world. Despite the size of the AFZ, the Australian fisheries catch is small by world standards, as the waters of the AFZ tend to be nutrient poor, and so are generally not highly productive.
The Fishery Status Reports 2008, produced by the Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS) and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, provides stock assessment information for 98 stocks, species or groups of species (hereafter all referred to as ‘stocks’), in fisheries for which the Australian Government has management responsibility. Management of these fisheries may be implemented unilaterally, with day-to-day management by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) or through joint authorities with state or territory governments, bilateral international agreements or broader regional or global international management entities.
The Fishery Status Reports describe, among other things, whether or not stocks are overfished (that is, their stock biomass is below a prescribed level) or subject to overfishing (the rate of mortality due to fishing exceeds a prescribed level). Of the 98 stocks assessed in the 2008 status reports, 44 were classified as not overfished (up from 20 in 2004), 13 as overfished (compared to 14 in 2004), and the status of the remaining 41 species was uncertain (compared to 40 in 2004). In terms of overfishing, 57 were not overfished (up from 12 in 2004), eight were subject to overfishing (compared to nine in 2004) and the status of 33 was uncertain (down from 53 in 2004). Of the 98 assessed stocks, 39 were classified as being both ‘not overfished’ and ‘not subject to overfishing’, while three stocks were classified as both overfished and subject to overfishing.
In 2008-09, the BRS, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), commenced a three year ‘Reducing Uncertainty in Stock Status’ project, designed to have a long-term impact in reducing the number of stocks classified as uncertain. In the Fishery Status Reports ‘uncertain’ species are those for which it is unclear whether they are overfished (too few fish left in a stock) or not, or whether overfishing (the stock is experiencing too much fishing) is occurring or not. In the long term, this project will facilitate the classification of stocks for which there are limited data to support a formal stock assessment.
Map 17.11 shows the status of 98 fish species (or groups of species) in Australia's Commonwealth-managed or jointly-managed fisheries in 2008.
Despite Australia's international reputation for its well-managed fisheries, these resources must be managed carefully to avoid over-exploitation. Status reports from 1992 to 2005 showed a trend of continued overfishing, increasing numbers of overfished stocks and continued high levels of uncertainty regarding stock status.
In response, a number of changes have been implemented since 2005, which have seen this trend reversed. The effects of these measures and the structural adjustments will become apparent over a number of years, with some stocks quicker to recover than others. Already, progress has been documented in the Fishery Status Reports 2008, with fewer stocks subject to overfishing.
The Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy (HSP) provides a framework for assessing the available information on individual fish stocks and applying an evidence-based, precautionary approach to setting catch levels on a stock basis. The HSP is designed to maximise the net economic return from the harvest of Commonwealth-managed fish stocks, whilst maintaining stocks at sustainable and productive levels. The HSP reflects the key domestic and policy obligations for Commonwealth fisheries management of key commercial species.
In December 2005, AFMA under its legislation was directed by the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation to minimise the incentives for discarding by ensuring it is factored into the setting of total allowable catch or effort levels (this is implemented by reducing the global Total Allowable Catch for quota species by the estimated amount of discards). AFMA was also directed to enhance the monitoring of fishing activity, for example through increased use of vessel monitoring systems with daily reporting, the use of on-board cameras and independent observers, and to establish a system of independent surveys for all major Commonwealth fisheries to increase transparency of catch and effort information.
17.11 Status of Commonwealth-managed or jointly-managed fisheries resources - 2008
Aquaculture is a rapidly growing primary industry in Australia, and is an alternative to harvesting the naturally occurring wild fish stocks of aquatic organisms, such as fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Aquaculture operations may involve the farming of captive-bred stock or the ‘grow-out’ of ‘naturally occurring’ larvae and juveniles and wild caught stocks, but in all cases involves intervention in the rearing process designed to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding and protection from predators. Unlike wild-caught fisheries in which fishers access and harvest a common resource, farming implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated, which provides operators with greater control over their operations. In 2007-08 the gross value of production of Australian aquaculture increased by 8% to $868.4m or 40% of the total value of fisheries production.
Aquaculture commenced in Australia in the late-1800s with the successful introduction of trout from the northern hemisphere and cultivation of the native Sydney rock oyster. The industry remained centred on these two species until the 1950s when the first cultured pearl farm was established in north-western Australia. A new wave of aquaculture development began in the 1980s with the beginning of the Atlantic salmon industry in Tasmania and commercial cultivation of native freshwater finfish, freshwater crayfish, prawns and Pacific oysters. The value of aquaculture production increased significantly in the 1990s, based on increased production and processing of Pacific oysters, prawns, Atlantic salmon, pearls and southern bluefin tuna.
Aquacultural operations occur in diverse environments including tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. The location of aquaculture is dependent on seasonal factors, the type of species being cultivated, the life-cycle stage of aquatic organisms and proximity to marine parks. More than one-third of people employed in the fishing industry are employed in aquaculture, which provides development opportunities in regional Australia and contributes to export income.
Many types of systems employing a variety of management techniques are used in aquaculture. The main emphasis of the industry is on producing high value species in near-shore or land-based sites within the coastal zone. Systems can be open or closed depending on the water flow. Open systems allow water to move through the cages such as in open seas or flowing rivers. In closed systems, the water flow is contained as in a pond or an aquarium.
In 2007-08 the gross value of Australian aquaculture production increased 8% (table 17.12). Salmon ($299m) continued as the species contributing the most to total gross value with tuna ($187m) production ranking second. Pearl oysters and edible oysters followed with $114m and $89m respectively.
In quantity terms, Australian aquacultural production for 2007-08 increased 4%. As in previous years, salmon, with 25,527 tonnes, remained the major aquaculture product, while edible oyster (12,460 tonnes) was the second most plentiful product.