Social and economic evaluation of NSW coastal aquaculture
University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
The NSW coastal aquaculture industry needs sound information about its economic and social contributions to coastal communities for its continued access to coastal resources to address prevalent negative perceptions. Competing coastal uses such as marine protected areas for conservation purposes and havens for recreational fishing may compromise the viability of aquaculture. For example, in recent submissions to government about commercial shellfish aquaculture leases in Jervis Bay, one submission claimed: “The contribution to the local and regional economy is estimated to be no more than $2 million. Is it worth risking a $700 million tourism industry for this small return?” Responses to this submission relied on evidence from locations outside NSW because currently there is no information available about contributions aquaculture makes to NSW regional communities beyond the value of farm gate sales. It is possible that aquaculture may enhance tourism, as it does in other regions in Australia and overseas, rather than detract from it, but without evidence it is difficult to make the case. The NSW coastal aquaculture industry and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff working on aquaculture have identified a need for a social and economic evaluation of the contributions the industry makes to regional communities. The new Marine Estate resource allocation process is based on assessments of social, economic and ecological values, threats and risks, highlighting absolute necessity of social and economic evaluations. Current trends for social responsibility reporting or certification for marketing also require social assessments. Finally, part of the need here is to improve the industry’s social license to operate. This project will provide baseline information that industry can then use to inform their community engagement strategies. DPI Aquaculture Manager Ian Lyall discovered that this kind of evaluation was planned for FRDC 2014/301 (on wild catch fisheries) and contacted the PI Kate Barclay to see if the same could be done for aquaculture, resulting in this proposal. DPI would benefit from this information for strategic planning for future development of coastal aquaculture.
1. Evaluate the economic contribution of aquaculture production in relevant regions on the NSW coast, including the regional economic impacts such as multiplier effects and employment and contributions to related sectors within regions, building on previous similar studies.
2. Evaluate the social contributions of aquaculture for the same regions, including the participation of families in community organizations, heritage values of seafood production for regions, and the social aspects of economic contributions, building on previous studies.
3. Establish a methodology to be used for ongoing social and economic evaluations as part of government reporting and industry engagement, building on recent and ongoing work in this field.
4. Write a report integrating the social and economic evaluations for each region identifying the role of aquaculture in those communities, and highlighting threats to sustainability and viability, in a form suitable for engaging with local and state government agencies.
Authors: Barclay, K., McIlgorm, A., Mazur, N., Voyer, M., Schnierer, S., Payne, A.M.
Keywords: Aquaculture, NSW, New South Wales, community wellbeing, social contributions, economic contributions, coastal zone management
The aquaculture industry contributes to the vitality and viability of rural and regional areas in coastal NSW. This research addresses two key information gaps about the role of aquaculture in coastal communities. First, the aquaculture industry in NSW feels that their role has not been accurately valued, and this has made them vulnerable in resource allocation decisions. Second, although NSW Government agencies are under legislative obligations to adhere to the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development, policy prioritises biodiversity conservation and economic sustainability and lacks the processes and tools to include social aspects, such as community wellbeing. These gaps in valuation are of concern not just in NSW, but also around Australia.
In 2015-2016 a collaboration of social scientists and economists from the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Wollongong, ENVision Environmental Consulting and Western Research Institute has addressed these information gaps. Understanding the role of aquaculture in the social and economic lives of NSW coastal communities is vital for ‘getting it right’ in resource management and allocation. What do communities lose if oyster and prawn aquaculture declines, or if fish farming and other new forms of aquaculture fail to thrive? Using social and economic questionnaires of NSW aquaculturists, the general public, government organisations and businesses related to the industry, coupled with in-depth interviews of 34 people connected to the industry, we uncovered the significant roles that aquaculture plays in helping to sustain the vitality and viability of NSW coastal areas.
This research represents the second known example in Australia of integrating qualitative and quantitative social science and economic methods to develop an integrated and holistic picture of the aquaculture industry’s contributions to community wellbeing. The first was a larger sister project Social and Economic Evaluation of NSW Coastal Professional Wild-Catch Fisheries, which addressed similar research questions and conducted by a core group of researchers across both projects (FRDC project 2014/301) (Voyer et al., 2016). The current aquaculture project used the same methodology as the Wild-Catch project, and several of the key findings are similar.
The following results are grouped under each of the seven identified ‘dimensions of community wellbeing’.
A resilient local economy
Education and knowledge generation
A healthy environment
Integrated, diverse and vibrant communities
Cultural heritage and community identity
Leisure and recreation
Implications for relevant stakeholders