The FRDC's RD&E Plan 2015–20 is focused on maximising impacts by concentrating on knowledge development around three national priorities:

  1. Ensuring that Australian fishing and aquaculture products are sustainable and acknowledged to be so.
  2. Improving productivity and profitability of fishing and aquaculture.
  3. Developing new and emerging aquaculture growth opportunities.

Section 4

The FRDC invests in RD&E to generate knowledge that can be used to create change which will benefit the fishing and aquaculture sectors and this in turn, benefits Australia more broadly. The FRDC's focus in 1991 was primarily on research for the management of commercial fisheries, which was mainly concerned with target stocks and environmental effects, and reflected the agreed priorities at that time.

Investment by the FRDC has evolved to reflect the broader base of fishing and aquaculture stakeholders, the increased sophistication of end users and higher standards of the community. This has meant there is more RD&E targeted at such things as the economic and social drivers of change across the fishing and aquaculture sectors. (For more information See Evolution of FRDC available from FRDC's website under about FRDC.)

Previous FRDC RD&E Plans have included the many diverse activities relevant to all stakeholders and has resulted in a range of sector-specific plans including FRDC's industry partnership agreements, subprograms and coordination programs. This previous work forms a solid base for the RD&E Plan 2015–20. The focus of this Plan is national research priorities and RD&E infrastructure, to be funded mainly through the public-good element of FRDC's revenue.



National research priorities

Priority 1: Ensuring that Australian fishing and aquaculture products are sustainable and acknowledged to be so

Consumers and communities are empowered by information and are increasingly scrutinising the use of natural resources. They are becoming choosier about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it is produced or caught, and its sustainability. The FRDC's overview of fishing and aquaculture, along with stakeholder feedback, shows this situation is apparent in the Australian fishing and aquaculture sector, but is impacting all other sectors.

The FRDC has conducted significant RD&E aimed at ensuring that Australian fishing and aquaculture is sustainable, and this will continue. It is vital that the sustainability of fishing and aquaculture in Australia is maintained and this information is available to the public.

Aim: By 2020, the community has effective access to, and understanding of, RD&E that supports fishing and aquaculture sustainability and improves perceptions of Australian seafood.

Strategy: Build understanding of the drivers of social licence to operate and respond to community concerns and needs for information with science-based evidence.

Continue to prioritise investment in RD&E that contributes to the sustainability of fishing and aquaculture, including consideration of target species; bycatch species; threatened, endangered and protected species; and the broader marine environment.


  • Increased knowledge about how community values align with the values of Australian fishing and aquaculture sectors, with the aim of improving community perceptions.
  • An Australian fisheries management and/or technical standard that addresses all fisheries and can be adopted by any management agency in Australia.
  • A scheme for responsible fisheries management that can specifically be applied to small-scale, data-poor Australian fisheries.
  • Bycatch performance metrics.
  • Community net benefit metrics.
  • An increased number of commercial species assessed in the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports.
  • A reduction in the percentage of species classified as 'undefined' in the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports.
  • Expanded capacity to connect with seafood consumers and markets in Australia and abroad, and use of these channels to understand community perceptions to tell the Australian fishing and aquaculture story across the sectors.


Community attitudes to fishing and aquaculture are more positive based on an awareness of Australian seafood's sustainability performance and the value it provides to local communities.

  • Ensure information on the performance and value of Australia's fisheries is readily available.
  • Increase the number of species to 200 in the national Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports.
  • Reduce the number of species classified as 'undefined' from the current figure of approximately 30 per cent to less than 10 per cent.
  • Increase positive perceptions of commercial fishing from 28 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020 as measured through independently-commissioned FRDC stakeholder surveys.

Priority 2: Improving productivity and profitability of fishing and aquaculture

Australia's fishing and aquaculture industry is in a good position to capitalise on the greater global demand for seafood. The world's population is growing along with global wealth, especially with an expanding Asian middle class.

While these factors raise the prospect for increased trade of fishing and aquaculture resources, Australia is also entering into free trade agreements with a number of Asian countries. The benefits of these agreements are likely to be reduced costs and an increase in the volume of product traded.

Greater use of what has traditionally been 'waste', including bycatch and discard species in commercial fisheries, is another way of improving the value of production.

Productivity and profitability are regularly a top priority for those in aquaculture and commercial fishing, and increasingly so in the Indigenous and recreational sectors. It will be important for each sector to understand its goals in this area and what its strengths and weakness are in terms of opportunities and threats.

Aim: By 2020, deliver RD&E for fishing and aquaculture to increase productivity and profitability consistent with economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Strategy: Invest in RD&E to understand the drivers of, and impediments to productivity and profitability growth in all fishing and aquaculture sectors; research means of increasing sustainable production and profitability; link these to business education; encompass the needs of Indigenous communities.


  • Efficiency improvements along the entire supply chain to improve market access, through strategic market intelligence and knowledge that will ultimately influence profitability.
  • More sustainable and profitable use of underutilised and undervalued species.
  • New technology solutions to improve productivity and profitability, where these can be feasibly implemented.
  • Habitat rehabilitation to improve productivity and profitability for the fishing and aquaculture sector.
  • Social contribution is supported by the fishing and aquaculture sector so it can capture the non-monetary value of activities across sectors.
  • The gross value of production of Australia's fishing and aquaculture resources is increased.


  • Provide RD&E to support increased trade of fishing and aquaculture products into countries with free trade agreements by some 300 per cent.
  • Understand the quantity of potential production from Australia's fishing and aquaculture resources.
  • Understand and improve the utilisation of fisheries resources by Indigenous Australians.
  • Identify obstacles that may hinder, and opportunities to increase productivity through habitat rehabilitation and improvement.

Priority 3: Developing new and emerging aquaculture growth opportunities

Finfish aquaculture has been one of the great success stories of the Australian seafood industry over the last two decades. Worldwide it is likely to be aquaculture that supplies the greater proportion of the increased demand for seafood.

Aquaculture has seen steady advancement over the past 30 years, with some sectors (such as Atlantic Salmon) having unprecedented growth over a much shorter period. There is still considerable potential within this sector, especially with the diversification in finfish species. There are a number of aquaculture ventures that could be expanded with RD&E, as has been proven by examples from overseas.

Aim: By 2020, deliver RD&E sufficient for the significant commercialisation of at least two emerging aquaculture growth opportunities with demonstrated potential for profitable business operations.

Strategy: Identify research constraints to industry growth — such as lack of potential markets, cost of production, survival, deformities and uniformity of growth — and invest in RD&E to determine successful and competitive commercial activity.


  • A nationally-coordinated strategy for the growth of new aquaculture subsectors.
  • RD&E to address barriers to aquaculture development including improved:
  • hatchery production technologies
  • breeds
  • feeds and feeding systems
  • husbandry
  • health systems
  • market access and/or value add.


  • Advance two or more emerging aquaculture opportunities/species for which RD&E has identified clear opportunities and technologies for good production and profitability growth.


National RD&E infrastructure

The FRDC has three subprograms (aquatic animal health and biosecurity, recfishing research and the Indigenous reference group) and one coordination program (social science and economics research coordination) that will be supported during the life of this Plan. These groups have been created to deal with RD&E issues that have a national focus. Representatives include experts tasked with developing and monitoring RD&E in the specific area, and are provided with a budget. (See 7.Evaluation and planned budget.) There is no exclusion to new coordination or subprograms being created under this RD&E Plan.

The FRDC will continue with this system of nation-wide groups and lead in these areas of RD&E. It will also lead in the areas of people development and service delivery. Details of these areas follow.

People development

Having strong leadership capacity will generate strong fishing and aquaculture communities that are productive, profitable and resilient to change, therefore people development remains an important focus for RD&E.

Long-standing and ongoing projects include the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program and funding participants to the Australian Rural Leadership Program. Within this RD&E Plan, the FRDC will create opportunities for industry to collaborate or co-invest in projects to ensure continued capacity building for fishing and aquaculture.


  • Continue to invest in leadership capacity building.
  • Co-invest with partners in other areas of capacity building.
  • Invest with universities in students to study marine science-specific topics relevant to FRDC stakeholders.
  • Collect and analyse data to better understand the training needs of fishing and aquaculture.
  • Partner in the development of research centres of excellence.

Delivery of key services

The FRDC has invested in services that support fishing and aquaculture on important issues such as data to facilitate international trade and the creation of relevant fisheries-based Australian Standards. The FRDC will continue to provide these services with new cost-effective operating models being developed that will allow for expanded services.

Continuing service activities include those related to standards, auditing and trade. Changes to FRDC's enabling legislation now make it possible for FRDC to engage in marketing activities that include promoting Australia's seafood products, recreational fishing activities and world-leading management practices.

The FRDC will also focus on a more integrated information technology platform that allows for more efficient use of its archive of electronically-held records and data to help streamline program activities, from management and reporting to communications and marketing.


  • Maintain FRDC's accreditation to develop Australian Standards.
  • Continue to supply trade market access data.
  • Continue the SafeFish program.
  • Maintain access to fisheries data and statistics.

Jurisdictional and industry sector research priorities

Under partnership agreements the RD&E priority-setting process will be led by the relevant sector or jurisdiction. This process must be consistent with the requirement that the FRDC maintain a balanced portfolio (see page 35), and be agreed to by the FRDC Board.

The national priorities do not have to be identically reflected by industry sectors and jurisdictions, however, it is expected there will be some cross over. FRDC's three core priorities have been formed by those that were common to its stakeholders. It is anticipated that they will be adopted by a number of sectors and jurisdictions.