1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Forestry and fishing


In 2012, Australia recognises the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives. This article was contributed by Co-operatives Australia and recognises the year by looking at the role of co-operatives in Australia's fishing industry.

With an annual revenue of over $2 billion, fisheries products are the sixth most valuable Australian rural commodities after cattle/calves, wheat, milk, sheep/lambs and wool. Australia's fishing zone is the world's third largest, with a total of 8,148,250 square kilometres. Australian waters contain about 3,000 known species of fish and at least an equal number of crustaceans and molluscs. However, only about 10% of these are commercially fished. [Endnote 1]

Fishing fleets throughout the world have been getting progressively smaller and this has also occurred in Australia – resulting in a decreased number and size of surviving fishing co-operatives along the Australian coast. For example, the fishing fleet of the San Remo Fishermen's Co-operative in Victoria had decreased from 60 boats in the 1980s to 12 in 2010. [Endnote 2] Additional pressures have come from competition from individual fishers who are not members of co-operatives, domestic aquaculture operations and cheaper imported products. [Endnote 3] A number of surviving fishing co-operatives are 'reinventing' themselves as tourist attractions or marketing their products to niche customers.

Most of Australia's fishing co-operatives were established in the 1940s and 1950s. According to Co-operatives Australia's April 2011 list of the top 100 co-operatives, credit unions and mutuals, [Endnote 4] the top three fishing co-operatives in 2011 in Australia had a combined turnover of $171 million and had 459 employees.

The Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative had the largest turnover. It was established in the 1950s and is a major processor and exporter of rock lobsters. The value of Western Australia's production of rock lobsters represents about 50% of Australia's production value of rock lobsters and about 8% of the total value of Australia's fisheries production. The export value of Australian rock lobsters in 2009-10 was $400 million. just over half of which ($225 million) was from Western Australia.


  1. http://www.bermaguiswharf.com.au/abouy-bfw.php. <Back>
  2. ABC The 7.30 Report transcript 7 April 2010, p1. <Back>
  3. Richard Stevens Report on Structural Adjustment in Commercial Fisheries in New South Wales, Government Relations and Fisheries management Advisor, 12 October 2007 pp iii, iv and ix. <Back>
  4. Australia's Top 100 Co-operatives, Credit Unions and Mutuals by Annual Turnover (April 2011). <Back>


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.