Over the past three months in particular, staff at the FRDC have been speaking with people from across fishing and aquaculture to see how they are faring. It is apparent that no two people have the same story – even those in the same fishery or business. However, perseverance and hope shine through.
By Peter Horvat
Old tales demonstrate the varied journeys of ocean-faring vessels when charting new courses. Some find storms and battle to stay afloat; others see the storm clouds and look for safe harbour to wait out the worst. Others find the golden passage, bathed in sunshine and strong tailwinds to carry them through.
With the tumult of 2020 – the year of the unprecedented – it is tempting to see the events as beyond our control.
But at the FRDC, our focus is on observing and making sense of the world around us so that we might help improve it across fishing and aquaculture. We choose to see the present challenges as instructive.
In a small way, the stories in the following pages will eventually serve as a kind of record for how the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, related food service and others, including FRDC, have dealt with this time, and a guide for improvements in the future.
How some have found safe harbour in this particular storm will be more clearly revealed in the coming months, but we do already have glimpses of some likely answers. Businesses chasing overseas dollars are now considering diversifying markets and connecting with communities on their doorsteps. Vertical integration is also looking very attractive, as opposed to the sometimes disparate and fragmented supply chains of a pre-COVID-19 world.
The crisis has brought out the best in many, with people reaching out to provide support and offer a helping hand to those in need. The seafood community has been no different and we are thrilled to be able to cover some of those heartwarming efforts in this edition.
In the continued break from our regular material, we have focused unabashedly on how businesses are faring in these challenging circumstances. We look forward to returning to a more regular mix of research and other content soon.
The turbulent seas stirred up by COVID-19 have not calmed quite yet, but they have revealed the resilience and innovation of fishing and aquaculture across Australia.
We hope that by taking stock of our experiences, it will put us in good stead for the future – stronger for having weathered the storms together.
For the members of the seafood sector, the challenges have also brought welcome recognition of the valuable service they provide as food producers, showing that every stormy cloud does indeed have its silver lining.