National Fishing Advisory Council - Priorities

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Priority 1: Access to resources and resource sharing

Description of the problem/opportunity

All sectors are concerned about their ongoing access to fisheries resources, and in particular uncertainty about the outcome of future resource sharing decisions.

  • The commercial industry is concerned about increasing recreational catch of important commercial species and recent decisions (by state governments) that seek to close them out of certain areas in favour of other sectors.
  • Recreational fishers are concerned about any decisions that may fetter the ‘open access’ to fisheries that they have enjoyed to date, and any change in policy which would increase the costs of their participation.
  • Indigenous fishers are concerned about ensuring their rights are given due consideration in any resource sharing discussion as a priority rather than as an afterthought. The indigenous sector must be included in any discussion regarding allocation.

Recent examples of resource sharing issues include recreational catch of Southern Bluefin tuna (Commonwealth) and the introduction of commercial net free fishing zones in Victoria which aimed to increase recreational fishing opportunities as part of the Target One Million initiative (state).

Resource sharing, resource security and property rights are sometimes conflated but need to be considered separately.

The Department (DAWR) is developing a Commonwealth Fisheries Resource Sharing Policy to address concerns in Commonwealth fisheries about cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional resource sharing. The policy will provide a framework and principles for resource sharing in Commonwealth fisheries and in doing so, will give greater certainty to all Commonwealth sectors about the nature and basis of future decisions.

The Council noted that DAWR needed to ensure appropriate consultation takes place in the development of the policy, particularly with respect to understanding Recreational and Indigenous sector values and expectations. A potentially hidden sector in this discussion is the general community who do not fish but have an expectation of access to locally sourced fresh seafood.

The introduction of state and Commonwealth marine parks has also been contentious with both commercial and recreational fishers. Marine parks present a major loss of access often driven by political or ENGO agendas, often fuelled by perceptions that Australian fisheries are unsustainable.

Commonwealth and state commercial fishing industries have also raised concerns about the security of their fishing rights and access to fisheries resources.

  • The Australian Government recognises the importance of ensuring rights holders operate in a secure environment.
  • The current Commonwealth fisheries regulatory framework provides a high level of security, while retaining the government’s ability to effectively manage the industry and its impact on the marine environment.

If access rights are removed, the relevant sector needs to be compensated.  Reallocation without compensation cannot be condoned.

Desired outcome

Fair, equitable and secure access to the resource

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1 Development of a National PolicyDAWRShort
2 Ensure sufficient consultation in the development of policyAll sector peak bodiesShort
3 Encourage research into resource sharing and property rights, including international fisheriesAllMedium

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

  1. Inability of the Commercial, Recreational and Indigenous sectors to work together
  2. Short term political agendas
  3. State and Commonwealth differences
  4. ‘Patch protection’ – sectors looking after their own
  5. Legal challenges regarding allocation and rights.

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

  1. A united fishing sector (leadership)
  2. Bi-partisan political support (lobby)
  3. Improved community acceptance of the sustainability of Australian fisheries (communication).

Priority 2: Social licence to operate

Description of the problem/opportunity

Commercial (wildcatch and aquaculture) and recreational fishers both raised concerns about maintaining their sector’s social licence to operate and were increasingly cognisant of the impact social licence can have on their ability to access to the resource and its importance in the marketplace.

While there are certainly sector specific issues, commercial and recreational fishers will have to tackle many of the same issues which pose threats to their social licence including aquatic animal welfare and sustainability.

This is not simply an issue relating to sustainability—it includes a community’s trust and comfort with other aspects of industry as well.   Social licence includes aspects such as transparency of data and management, equity between sectors, cultural challenges, worker health and safety, supply chains, ethics and the lack of unity between fishery groups.

Referring to the 2018 FRDC report on community perceptions about the sustainability of Australian fisheries, the council noted that perceptions vary in relation to sectors.  Half or more of those surveyed considered aquaculture, indigenous and recreational fishing to be sustainable whereas only 29% thought commercial wild catch to be sustainable.  These perceptions had not changed much over the past decade. These perceptions stood in contrast to the recent report on the Status of Australian Fish Stocks, which showed that most Australian fish stocks were sustainable.

Simply communicating scientific facts about the fishery doesn’t always work.  We need to listen at the heart of the concern and engage openly with stakeholders. We need to acknowledge our problems and be prepared to address them. Listening without an agenda creates opportunities.

The problem was not dissimilar to a food safety scare (one bad berry). Each sector is dependent on the other in maintaining social licence. All three sectors are fundamentally seeking continued access to the resource. There is a real interdependence between each of the sectors. Listening to community concerns, addressing these concerns, and then demonstrating how the issue is being dealt with is a vital part of how the industry (all three sectors) moves forward together.

The Indigenous sector is working actively to tell their story in order to maintain access to the resource. Council members have expressed an interest in working together to better improve their collective social licence to operate.

Fishing defines people and communities.  Seafood Industry Australia’s ‘Our Pledge’ is the commercial sector’s clear commitment to addressing community concerns, how they are monitoring those concerns and how they’re going to track their progress.

While improving social licence is primarily the responsibility of industry, the Australian Government can continue to support industry by demonstrating the effectiveness of regulation and management and ensuring a focus on science and data reporting.

Desired outcome

Working together:  A commercial, recreational and indigenous fishing sector that is respected, trusted, stable and prosperous, and which is continually earning its social licence to operate.

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. Roundtable discussion facilitated by the FRDC Indigenous Reference GroupCommercial, recreational and Indigenous sectorsShort
2. Establish a forum to continue the discussion – more work on the ‘our fishery’ conceptCommercial, recreational and Indigenous sectorsShort
3. Further survey to better understand community perceptionsAllShort to Medium
4. Kiosks in tackle stores to provide a point for feedbackAFTAMedium

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

  1. Disunity at a grassroots level and between sectors could undermine sectoral and collective action
  2. Resistance to change
  3. Not continuing with NFAC process
  4. Lack of transparency and failure to acknowledge problems

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

  1. Look forward (don’t look at future in the rear view mirror).   Become better at listening and acknowledging the perspectives of the other side
  2. Communicating the right messages
  3. Capacity building. Improve communication skills to improve the messaging, especially in social media.

Priority 3: Ensuring a consistent approach to valuation of each sector

Description of the issue/opportunity

Concerns about approaches to the valuation of each sector are shared by commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers and stem from uncertainty about the possibility of future resource sharing decisions, and the valuations which underpin those decisions.

While recreational and commercial fishers are typically in agreement about the importance of valuation, they commonly disagree on the valuation method which should be used, with each favouring the method which sees their sector allocated the largest share of a resource—a win-loss scenario.

Developing a consistent valuation model is difficult as the outputs and drivers of each sector’s participation are so dissimilar.

The objective of most fisheries Acts is to ‘optimise utilisation’ of the resource (eg SA Fisheries Management Act 2017 objectives: access to the aquatic resources of the State is to be allocated between users of the resources in a manner that achieves optimum utilisation and equitable distribution of those resources to the benefit of the community). Valuation is implicit; however there is no agreed method to do this. As a consequence politicians and departments interpret optimal utilisation to suits their agenda.   This leads to conflict and the perception of inequity in the allocation or the resource.

Values need to extend beyond those of the commercial, recreational and Indigenous sectors and the resource itself, and include broader cultural, community and environmental values, as well as associated industries (eg tackle and tourism).

Desired outcome

Agreed methods that could be applied to assessing the contribution and value of commercial (wildcatch and aquaculture), recreational and indigenous fishing to national and regional economies—which are used for decision making regarding optimal utilisation and resource allocation, and which build an understanding of social values.

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. Developing a valuation model that is accepted by all sectors and which can be used to interpret ‘optimal utilisation’FRDC/AllShort term
2. Capacity building (education programs such as run recently through the FRDC Indigenous Reference Group)IRG/KnuckeyShort
3. Undertake the valuationEg. BDO EconsearchMedium term

* Timeframe defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

  1. Lack of understanding or appreciation of values of different sectors
  2. Difference in methodology

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

  1. Creating a better understanding and appreciation of values though capacity building
  2. Development of a common and agreed methodology

Priority 4: Future proofing the industry (including through attracting workers)

Description of the problem/opportunity

Commercial and recreational fishers both raise concerns about the future of their respective industries. While these concerns are largely sector specific, both groups are attuned to the impact negative social licence can have on resource access.

Commercial fishers are primarily concerned with attracting investment, continuing to find viable markets for their product, accessing labour and encouraging young people to join the industry. Related to this was the problem of getting workers on boats for longer periods at sea as well as how to keep them once trained.

Currently, at sea positions are very hard to fill and there is a drastic shortage of workers. Short term the industry need access to foreign workers, The Pacific Labour Scheme is available which will hopefully be successful but is a bit of trial and error to start. The industry also needs to access workers outside of the Pacific from countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Phillipines—currently the only way is through the TSS (subclass 482) visa / Labour Agreement which is expensive, difficult and time consuming. There needs to be a visa that assists agribusiness whether it be fishing or farming to bring out workers quickly and without excess costs.

By comparison, recreational fishers are primarily focussed on maintaining and improving their access to the resource and encouraging new participants.

There is an opportunity through NFAC to foster discussion at stakeholder leadership levels but a challenge to communicate this down to grassroots.

Commercial industry has so far failed to accurately identify what the next generation is looking for in employment. All need to understand why people are hesitant to take on these kinds of jobs.

Education and training is needed at all levels and should be a grass-roots up approach. Education must include potential Indigenous employees. Ideally this should be a national education program (curriculum) that has regional elements. If the sectors invest in the future of “OUR FISHERY” and provide exposure and awareness to the next generation we can build a foundation of unbiased and educated opinion to a generation that ideally aspires to work in fishing. We have the chance to plant the seeds for the next generation of NFAC to harvest.

From a commercial fishing perspective the government needs to look at supporting young workers and employers through training assistance – basics being coxswain ticket, first aid, forklift licence, shipboard safety, this together with practical experience gives a young worker a good opportunity to get and maintain a job. There are currently plenty of monetary incentives such as wage subsidies for employers to employee long term unemployed, however, most lack any relevant skills and the desire to go to sea or even work in a factory. We need to identify young people that have a keen interest in fishing (usually starts with rec fishing) that want to further that and can see a long term career with assistance from industry, almost like an apprenticeship. Industry is more than happy to support and mentor keen, young individuals that want a career. These people can then go on to their Marine Engineering course, Master 4 etc which ultimately provides them with job opportunities for life. Industry also needs fish graders, fish cutters, factory workers and management, the same principle would apply especially for fish cutters / graders as there is a real lack of skilled workers in this area. It really starts with young people before they leave school, young people that can move straight into the industry once school finishes via an ‘apprenticeship’.

Working together (SIA, NFAC, AFTA) there is an opportunity to host a combined symposium to profile the sector.

In the recreational sector there is a need to consider a National Recreational Fishing licence (with funds allocated by post code).  WA, VIC and NSW have this, TAS has freshwater but not saltwater and QLD, NT & SA have no rod and reel fishing licence.  The RecfishWest model could be expanded to include a peak Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARRD) with a state based subsidiary.  Idea is not to dethrone what is good and strong but to enhance the sector through financial support.

Desired outcome

Inspiring the next generation to want to work in and manage our fisheries.

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. Access to TSS (subclass 482) visa workersCommonwealth governmentShort
2. Combining recreational (AFTA) and Commercial (SIA) agendas at a large symposium (eg Seafood Directions and the AFTA tradeshow)AFTA, SIA, othersMedium
3. Education and trainingVET sectorLonger and ongoing
4. National Recreational Fishing LicenceStatesLong term

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

Regulatory impediments in market (tackle industry)

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

Improving our social licence

Priority 5: Availability and transparency of information (and data) used in management decisions

Description of the problem/opportunity

All three sectors referred to the importance of robust data and the need for fisheries managers to be transparent in identifying the data which is relied upon in making management decisions.  Trust was an issue.

The importance of improving data collection on recreational and Indigenous fishing activities is recognised. 

It was noted that the all jurisdictions were attempting to address the timing and methodology of State recreational fishing surveys to make them more comparable.

It can be difficult to find data and information. This is due to both a lack of data and accessibility of data, and is a major challenge in improving social licence, particularly around sustainability.  There was a need to build trust via transparency.

The difference between data and information was highlighted.

Desired outcome

Building trust: Improving access to and understanding of information used to underpin management decisions and the status of our fisheries.  

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. Support for improved data on recreational and indigenous fisheriesDAWR, FRDC, All sectorsShort to medium
2. Extension:  Presenting information on the status of fisheries in a more digestible formatFRDCShort
3. Building trust: Making data and information more accessibleAllShort to medium

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

  1. Jurisdictional differences in the data being collected and the data platforms used
  2. Lack of understanding of complex assessment methods

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

  1. Harmonisation of methodology, particularly with cross-jurisdictional stocks
  2. Better communication of information in layman terms (eg Status of Australian Fish Stocks (SAFS))

Priority 6: Developing a national approach to fisheries policy and management

Description of the problem/opportunity

Commercial fishers, and to a lesser extent recreational fishers, raised issues with the variation in jurisdictional approaches to fisheries policy and management, and noted inconsistencies could generate uncertainty and administrative burden for fishing businesses working across jurisdictions.

As a consequence of the above, being able to compare and share data is difficult.  The age of some of these systems impedes innovation.

Commercial fishers are particularly sensitive to the lack of a national approach to resource sharing which has allowed jurisdictions to make ad hoc resource sharing decisions on political grounds, rather than on the basis of sustainability or economics.

The Council recognised that resource security arrangements differed across the country.  Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) is establishing a taskforce to investigate this issue.

The Council noted differences in how indigenous interests were captured in different legislation across the country.

Harvest strategy methodology is different between states (and for the same species), which leads to challenges in understanding the science underpinning management.

State approaches to aquaculture development are different. 

There is a need to identify instances where different legislation leads to inefficiencies and perverse outcomes.

Harmonisation of management arrangements would need to take place through the OCS, requiring negotiation and agreement between ministers. 

The move towards a digital strategy in fisheries is an opportunity.

Desired outcome

Harmonisation of management arrangements across jurisdictions, especially when dealing with single species or cross-jurisdictional stocks.

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. National audit of current arrangementsSIAShort

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

Priority 7: Relationship building between the Commercial, Recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors

Description of the problem/opportunity

Tensions between commercial, recreational and Indigenous fishers typically centre around resource sharing issues, such as those associated with southern bluefin tuna and striped marlin.

These clashes are commonly exacerbated where there is uncertainty about the outcome of a resource sharing decision, and where one sector is ‘locked out’ of an area at the benefit of another sector. Commercial netting closures in Victoria, which aimed to promote recreational fishing opportunities is an example of this.

Relationship building needs to happen on several levels – within sectors, between sectors and finally with environmental and broader community groups.

Working together on areas of common interest, such as good fisheries management and ensuring the sustainability of fish stocks is one way to foster cross-sectoral relationships.

Desired outcome

Continuation of a strategic conversation between the Commercial, Recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors on matters of common interest.

Actions to achieve this outcome
TaskPartnersTimeframe*
1. Continuation of the ‘NFAC conversation’All sectors, DWARShort
2. Strategic Planning: Clarification of common objectives/goals, actions and targetsAllMedium
3. Creating a more united front able to effectively engage with the wider stakeholder community incl. ENGOsAllShort to Medium
4. Broadening the discussion at Seafood Directions to include recreational and indigenous fishingFRDCMedium

* Time frame defined as:

  • short-term—to be implemented/achieved within two years
  • medium-term—to be implemented/achieved within three to five years
  • long-term—to be implemented/achieved within five to 10 years.

What are the potential risks or obstacles to a satisfactory resolution or outcome?

  1. A lack of adequate resourcing
  2. Managing outliers so that the agenda is not derailed

How can these be risks or obstacles overcome?

  1. Political and departmental support needed
  2. Establishing champions at a grass root level eg Tuna champions

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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