A review of projects concerned with improved exploitation of underutilised species

Project Number:



Dr Leonard Stephens

Principal Investigator:

Len Stephens

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Industry

A review of projects concerned with improved exploitation of underutilised species

Author(s):Leonard Stephens
Date Published:March 2019

Catching unwanted fish species is an unavoidable consequence of commercial fishing. Some of this fish is bought from fishers at very low prices and used for low value products but the bulk of it is discarded at sea.

Many improvements have been made to fishing gear to reduce fishing bycatch, however there are still large volumes of underutilised species caught. Apart from some niche products, little of this product that is landed reaches wholesale and retail food markets because there is lack of demand for it, further complicated by failures in the supply chain.  Most of the landed product is diverted to pet food, bait, and rendering for fish meal and oil. This study was commissioned by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to investigate the factors that influence supply and demand of underutilised species. This project also sought to make recommendations on how FRDC might support future research on this subject.

The study was conducted in two parts: 

1. The first part involved a review of previous and current FRDC projects focusing on developing commercial opportunities for underutilised species. This component was undertaken to assist FRDC and researchers in the design and execution of projects aiming to improve exploitation of underutilized species.

2. The second part involved interviewing operators at all levels of the supply chain and Principal Investigators of past and current FRDC projects to better understand the potentially competing objectives of public policies aimed at minimizing fish discards and commercial drivers that limit the harvest of underutilized species.


1. Provision of a collated summary of all underutilized species projects supported by FRDC, and an analysis of lessons learned from each project.

2. Provision of a check list of success criteria to be used as guidance for future applicants in preparing projects concerned with underutilized species and by FRDC in evaluating them.

3. Identification of commercial factors and fisheries managememt policy concepts that might influence future supply and demand of underutilized species in Australia.