Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004
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Production, processing, and exports and imports of fisheries products
Processing of fish, crustaceans and molluscs
In Australia, very little processing of fish products is undertaken which adds value to the product. Processing establishments vary in size, scope of operations and sophistication of technologies employed. The majority of establishments undertake only the most basic cleaning, filleting, chilling, freezing and packaging processes, but 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.
Exports and imports
Exports of fisheries products come under Commonwealth 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 2001-02, the value of exports (including live fish) declined by 3.5% to $2.1b (table 15.10). Although the value of rock lobster exports fell by 8% (for the second year running) to $493m, this product remained Australia's highest earning fisheries export in 2001-02, accounting for 30% of the total value of fisheries products exported. Tuna, abalone and prawns were the next largest edible fisheries exports worth $319m, $263m and $263m respectively. Pearl exports earned $404m. (For some fisheries categories, the value of exports exceeds the value of production because exports are valued on a free-on-board (f.o.b.) basis which includes the value of packaging and distribution services to the point of export.)
In 2001-02, Japan continued to be the major destination for Australian exports of fisheries products, accounting for 34% of the total value. The combined value of shipments to the four largest export markets, Japan, Hong Kong, United States of America and Taiwan, fell $128m (7.9%). A 43% increase in exports in 2001-02 has resulted in China moving ahead of Singapore in the ranking of fisheries export destinations (table 15.10).
In 2001-02, South Australia earned $475m (29% of the total Australian value) from the export of seafood (i.e. edible fisheries products) half of which came from the sale of fresh, chilled or frozen fish ($263m). Western Australia, the next largest earner from the seafood export trade, moved shipments worth $428m with three-quarters of this sum coming from exports of rock lobster ($330m). Prawns earned Queensland $190m out of a total $378m worth of seafood exported from that state.
The total value of Australian imports of fisheries products increased by 3% in 2001-02, to an estimated $1.2b (table 15.11), although Australia remained a net exporter of fisheries products. The major item of value imported in 2001-02 was pearls at $217m (although most of these are previous exports returning unsold). Other significant fisheries imports, in value terms, were frozen fillets ($207m), canned fish ($177m) and prawns ($167m). The two main sources of these imported fisheries products were Thailand and New Zealand.
The Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) covers offshore waters between three miles and two hundred nautical miles seaward of the territorial sea baseline of Australia and its external territories. This area of 8.9 million square kilometres makes it an expanse 16% larger than the Australian land mass, and the third largest fishing zone in the world. However, the catch is insignificant by world standards as the waters of the AFZ lack nutrient rich currents, causing low productivity. Map 15.12 shows the status of Australia's Commonwealth managed or jointly managed fisheries resources.
While some species are considered to be over-harvested, some fish resources such as albacore and Southern whiting are not being used optimally. There are some 3,000 known species of fish, and at least an equal number of crustaceans and mollusc species inhabiting Australian waters, but only about 600 are commercially fished.
The level of fishing activity has increased over the last decade to the point where almost all the major known fish, crustacean and mollusc resources are fully used. Some major species such as Southern bluefin tuna, gemfish and shark have suffered serious biological depletion.
15.12 STATUS OF COMMONWEALTH MANAGED OR JOINTLY MANAGED FISHERIES RESOURCES
Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences.
Management of fisheries
The Commonwealth has jurisdiction over the AFZ. Conversely, the states and the Northern Territory have jurisdiction over inland fisheries and marine waters up to three nautical miles seaward of the territorial sea baseline. To aid the management of Australian fisheries, arrangements known as Offshore Constitutional Settlements have been entered into, which transfer jurisdiction from the Commonwealth to the state or territory.
The Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cwlth) is the main fisheries legislation, and applies to commercial fishing for swimming and sedentary species in the AFZ. The establishment of the AFZ in 1979 brought portions of oceanic tuna stocks, and demersal and pelagic fish stocks previously accessed by foreign fishing vessels, under Australian control.
The Fisheries Administration Act 1991 (Cwlth) establishes the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and specifies its functions. These include a duty to engage in appropriate consultation and to devise and implement management plans, adjustment programs and exploratory/feasibility fishing programs. AFMA establishes priorities for management-related research and arranges for such research to be undertaken. Details of these and other government legislation relating to the management of fisheries can be obtained from the AFMA web site, <http://www.afma.gov.au>.
Aquaculture is an alternative to harvesting the naturally occurring fish stocks, and has considerable potential as a means of ensuring sustainability of harvesting yields. Australia's first experience with aquaculture was the farming of the Sydney rock oyster. More recently, operations to produce tuna, cultured pearls, salmon and prawns have become well established.
Aquaculture operations occur in diverse environmental areas including tropical, subtropical and temperate sectors. The location of aquaculture is dependent on seasonal factors, the type of species being cultivated, the stage of aquatic organisms in their life-cycle and proximity to marine parks. The industry directly employs about 5,000 people, provides regional development opportunities in rural Australia and contributes to export growth.
There are many types of systems used in aquaculture employing a variety of management techniques. The main emphasis of the industry is on producing high value species in near-shore or land-based sites within the coastal zone; only about 10% of total production value is from freshwater species. 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 lake or an aquarium.
In 2001-02, the gross value of Australian aquaculture production was $733m, an increase of 4% on that for 2000-01 (table 15.13). This increase was mainly due to a $24.6m (16%) rise in the value of pearl oyster production, a $14.9m (30%) increase in the value of prawns and a $12.9m (13%) increase in the value of salmon produced.
Table 15.14 shows the volume of Australian aquaculture production for the three years 1999-2000 to 2001-02, with the latest year showing an 8% increase in total. In 2001-02, production of salmon (14,356 tonnes, a 13% increase on the previous year) accounted for the largest share of aquaculture production while the next biggest contributors to the total were edible oysters and tuna. Prawn production increased by 31% to 3,696 tonnes in 2001-02.
Results of a national survey of recreational fishing conducted over a 12-month period during 2000-01 showed that 3.4 million Australians (2.3 million males and 1.1 million females) over the age of five years went fishing at least once in the period (AFFA, National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey). In addition, nearly 4% of international tourists visiting Australia were estimated to have engaged in recreational fishing. In the 12-month period, fishers caught and retained a total of 136 million aquatic animals, weighing in excess of 32,000 tonnes.
Just over a third of Australia's recreational fishers reported they went fishing mainly to 'relax and unwind' (37%). Another 18% fished 'for sport' and 15% 'to be with family'. Only 8% of recreational fishers considered catching fish for food as their prime motivation and only 4% were members of fishing clubs.
Most recreational fishing occurred in saltwater with coastal (41%), estuarine (35%) and offshore waters (4%) attracting over three-quarters of the fishing effort. The shore was the preferred location for 57% of fishers and line fishing (85%) easily the most popular fishing method.
Finfish (60.4 million) comprised the largest group of the catch retained by recreational fishers, with the main species being whiting, flathead, herring and salmon. It is also estimated that the 'bagged' catch of recreational fishers, included 47.7 million prawns and yabbies, 11.5 million baitfish, and 6.1 million crabs and lobsters (graph 15.15). A total of 60 million aquatic animals were caught and released, with Murray cod, barramundi, wrasse, snapper and mud crab the most likely to be returned to the water.
In 2000-01, Australian recreational fishers spent an estimated $1.8b on fishing related items, or an average of $552 per person. Fishers reported more than 45 different expenditure items with expenditure on boats and trailers ($940m) the biggest individual expense. Travel associated with fishing ($395m) and fishing gear ($182m) followed in importance. More than 511,000 boats with a capital value of $3.3b were used for recreational fishing.
This page last updated 24 March 2006
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