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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 2002-03 the value of exports (including live fish) declined by 12% to $1.8b (table 15.9). However, Australia still remained a net exporter of fisheries product. Australia's highest earning fisheries export product is rock lobster, which accounted for 25% of total value of fisheries product exports in 2002-03. Exports of rock lobster fell by 6% to $463m in 2002-03, continuing its decline of the previous two years. Exports of tuna, the second largest edible fisheries export product, remained at $319m while the next highest edible fisheries export products, abalone and prawns, fell by 18% and 21% to $216m and $208m respectively. The highest value non-edible export earner, pearl, recorded an 18% fall from $404m in the previous year to $332m in 2002-03. (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 2002-03 Japan continued to be the major destination for Australian exports of fisheries products, accounting for 37% of the total value. The combined value of shipments to the two largest export markets, Japan and Hong Kong, fell $78m (7%), while shipments to the third largest destination, United States of America, increased by 16% to $199m.
South Australia remained the highest earning state from edible seafood exports in 2002-03, with income of $449m accounting for 30% of the total value of Australia's seafood exports of $1.5b. South Australia earned $267m (60%) of this income from exporting fresh, chilled or frozen whole fish. Western Australia earned $421m (28%), most of which (77%) came from sales of rock lobster worth $325m. Prawns earned Queensland $108m (38%) out of a total $281m worth of seafood exported from that state.
The total value of Australian imports of fisheries products in 2002-03 remained steady at an estimated $1.2b (table 15.10). The major items of imports, in value terms, were canned fish ($208m), frozen fillets ($204m) and prawns ($175m). The two main sources of imported fisheries products were Thailand and New Zealand which together accounted for more than a third of the value of imports. Pearls were again the leading non-edible import at $163m down 25% from the previous year.
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 15.11 shows the status of Australia's Commonwealth managed or jointly managed fisheries resources.
While some species are considered to be over-harvested, 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.
15.11 STATUS OF COMMONWEALTH MANAGED OR JOINTLY MANAGED FISHERIES RESOURCES - 2002
Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences.
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 development opportunities in regional 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 2002-03 the gross value of Australian aquaculture production increased marginally to $744m (table 15.12). Tuna remained the species contributing the most ($256m) to total gross value, followed by pearl oysters ($175m) and salmon ($109m), although all of them are less than their contributions to total value in 2001-02. Edible oyster, which increased by 10% to $62.4m, was one of the few products that recorded an increase in contribution to total gross value in 2002-03.
Table 15.13 shows the quantity of Australian aquaculture production for the three years 2000-01 to 2002-03, with the latest year showing a 2% decrease in total production. Except for trout, the production of all other species significant enough to individually identify fell during 2002-03 compared with the previous year. As in previous years, salmon was the major aquaculture product, (13,972 tonnes), followed by edible oyster (9,855 tonnes) and tuna (9,000 tonnes).
Recreational and Indigenous fishing
Results of a national survey of recreational fishing conducted over a 12-month period during 2000-01 showed 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 (DAFF, 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 15.14). 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 - 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.
The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey undertaken in the period June 2000 to November 2001, covered Indigenous persons aged five years and older and living in 44 coastal communities across northern Australia from Broome to Cairns. An estimated 37,000 Indigenous persons from these communities fished at least once in the 12-month period prior to interview. This represents a participation rate of almost 92%. They harvested aquatic animals from a range of environments, but inshore waters accounted for more than half the fishing effort. Indigenous fishers used line fishing (53% of the time), hand collection (26%), nets (12%), and spears (9%) as their primary fishing methods.
Indigenous fishers harvested a greater range of non-fish species (crabs, shellfish) than the recreational fishers and these non-fish species formed a greater proportion of the catch. Recreational and Indigenous fishers used similar fishing methods, but a higher proportion of the Indigenous catch was taken with spears and hand collection methods.
Using all methods, Indigenous fishers harvested more than 3.3 million aquatic animals from the waters of northern Australia. The harvest included approximately 910,000 finfish, 1,100,000 shellfish, 655,000 prawns and yabbies, 181,000 crabs and lobsters, and 98,000 small baitfish. The most prominent finfish species in the Indigenous catch were mullet, catfish, sea perch/snappers, bream and barramundi. Most prominent non-fish species were mussels, cherabin, other bivalves, prawns, oysters and mud crabs. As well, Indigenous fishers harvested a number of species groups that have protected status for non-Indigenous people, including crocodiles, turtles and dugong.