Back to FISH Vol 28 3
PUBLISHED 1 Dec 2020

Low-cost management for small fisheries


Low-cost, practical management regimes for small-scale, low-value fisheries are desperately needed to ensure long-term sustainability without the need for resource-hungry management frameworks.

This study provides comprehensive, process-based guidance to developing low-cost management regimes for these fisheries. The approach outlined is strongly ‘bottom up’ and it attempts to provide advice that is tailored to each fishery’s unique circumstances. This includes incorporating and formalising, where appropriate, existing management arrangements into a harvest strategy, and recommending assessment approaches based only on available information.

The resulting guidelines provide an efficient, transparent, defensible and standardised process to identify management options that are best suited to the fishery’s context. Such a process mitigates against decision paralysis and inefficiency in having to develop a harvest strategy, and against using the wrong assessment or inappropriate control rules or monitoring programs. The guidelines developed as part of this project are underpinned by a review of the literature, and an accompanying ‘Low-cost Management Regime Guidelines’ document.

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Natalie Dowling,

Easy-Open oyster automation



The difficulty in shucking oysters experienced by many people limits the demand for oysters, and for this reason, most oysters are shucked by staff (employed by wholesalers) and sold in the half shell. All wholesalers report difficulty in maintaining shucking staff. Also, the eating experience of half-shell oysters is inferior to that of freshly shucked oysters.

This project attempted to overcome these barriers by developing the idea of an ‘easy open’ oyster; it was suggested by Robert Simmonds, owner of Oyster Bob Pty Ltd. This entailed making a slit in the edge of the oyster shell and resealing it with wax so the oyster remained alive but could be easily opened later by placing a knife through the slit and cutting the muscle that holds together the two shells of the oyster. To enable production of sufficient volumes of Easy-Open oysters, the process had to be automated. It then had to be evaluated under commercial conditions.

This project created a successful protype of the robotic technology, plus vision and sensing systems based on three-dimensional laser cameras to automate the Easy-Open process. The process of cutting and waxing oysters is now protected by an Australian innovation patent number, owned by the FRDC.

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Len Stephens,

Sea state analysis in the Great Australian Bight


The Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA) operates in shelf and offshore waters of the Great Australian Bight (GAB). In recognition of the exposed nature of the offshore GAB environment, ASBTIA requested information to better understand the climatology of the physical meteorological and oceanographic conditions that contribute to the ‘sea state’ and ocean conditions at a deep-water petroleum permit location in the GAB.

This report provides a detailed characterisation, assessment and prediction of the meteorological and oceanographic conditions that will be encountered by, and have the potential to impact, future petroleum activities in the GAB.

In the absence of direct, long-term observations, the improved understanding of the offshore GAB environment generated by this study is critical to the assessment of the suitability of the GAB for hosting offshore petroleum industry and response planning necessary to mitigate any environmental impacts that may result from associated activities.

By providing comparisons to the environmental conditions experienced at several major international offshore petroleum locations, the information in this report provides the clarity and context needed by South Australian fishing and aquaculture sectors, and the broader community, to make informed decisions regarding meteorological and oceanographic interactions with petroleum activities in the GAB.

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Charles E James,

Reducing whale entanglements



This project provided a robust assessment that gear modifications introduced into the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery and octopus fisheries have reduced the number of reported whale entanglements. The management arrangements around the implementation of these modifications are appropriate in light of the new information on the migratory behaviours of humpback whales off the west Australian coast.

This study recommends that the current management arrangements in place to reduce whale entanglements remain. However, it should be noted that the number of entanglements may rise in the future as a result of continued increases in the whale population off the west Australian coast. Additional research may be required to assess possible additional gear modifications or management arrangements.

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Jason How,

Optimising WA scallops



Ballot’s Saucer Scallop (Ylistrum balloti) numbers have been variable across Western Australia in different years. This study examined possible contributing environmental factors affecting the population, to improve future management advice.

This project also set out to examine the feasibility of using assisted recovery through seeding of hatchery-produced juveniles, or translocation of mature breeding stock or immature scallops.

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Mervi Kangas,

Aboriginal business development in supportive fishing industries



Aboriginal communities have property rights for 85 per cent of the Northern Territory’s coastline. This significant asset provides an important opportunity for communities to create niche markets and build their capacity around providing services to, and engaging directly in, the fishing and seafood sectors. However, these mostly remote Aboriginal communities have limited capacity to access the services and expertise needed to assist them in their planning and development of commercial interests.

This report presents the outcomes of the Participatory Action Research (PAR) that was implemented with the Wurrahiliba Management Committee. The project enabled the community of co-researchers based in Darwin, Katherine and Borroloola to come together in Borroloola.

Primarily, this project found that the Northern Territory Fisheries (NTF) and some Yanyuwa individuals are aligned in seeking to develop local fishing sector economies through Aboriginal Coastal Licences. Yanyuwa have identified that a Yanyuwa fishing enterprise is the appropriate vehicle to support Yanyuwa individuals to engage in relevant NTF programs.

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Lorrae McArthur,

Managing King George Whiting in SA



This study investigated the spawning dynamics of King George Whiting (Sillaginodes punctatus) in South Australia’s southern gulfs and Investigator Strait. King George Whiting is one of the most valuable and iconic coastal finfish species of southern Australia.

This study developed a fishery-independent method to estimate King George Whiting biomass to supplement and underpin the future fishery-dependent estimates of stock. The work has been synthesised to inform future management decisions, including the evaluation of spatial closures to protect future spawning stocks. Therefore, key results of this study have been integrated with the ongoing assessment and management of the resource.

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Mike A Steer,

Oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour



Sustainable finfish aquaculture is dependent on the seafloor environment being able to process farm waste. In Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania, bottom and mid-water oxygen values have reached very low levels, and this has caused an increase in the presence of bacterial mats and a significant decline in the abundance and diversity of benthic (seafloor) fauna.
This project integrates multiple lines of evidence to characterise the water quality and oxygen dynamics of Macquarie Harbour. Using modelling, researchers now understand that river flows control the flushing time and influx of marine water and, together with human activities, this ultimately defines the low-oxygen condition of the harbour. The findings documented in this report are available to inform ongoing sustainable management of the harbour to minimise the deleterious impacts of human activities on water quality and local environmental values.

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Jeff Ross,

Maugean Skate in a declining environment



The Maugean Skate (Zearaja maugeana), known only from two isolated estuarine systems located on the west coast of Tasmania, represents one of most restricted distributions of any elasmobranch. The species is listed as endangered and, apart from protected status, is without a recovery plan or management strategy. The present study shows there is an intricate link between movement of the Maugean Skate and environmental conditions in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania.

This study provides a greater understanding of the ecology and life history of the Maugean Skate and describes for the first time some of the behavioural and physiological adaptations that have enabled the species to survive in such a unique and challenging environment as Macquarie Harbour. Results suggest the species can survive some environmental variability by a combination of behavioural (movement) responses and physiological adaptations. However, the vulnerability of early life stages to the changing environmental conditions, long-term changes in the size structure of the population, and the mortality of some tagged individuals following significant environmental events, collectively highlight the vulnerability of the Maugean Skate in Macquarie Harbour and the need to consider further conservation action to support the persistence of this unique micro-endemic skate.

There is a need for further research to better understand this species, but more importantly, managing the known impacts of human activities on its environment will ultimately prove crucial to the success of any conservation strategy. A multi-stakeholder and holistic environmental management approach for Macquarie Harbour should be considered as part of this strategy.

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Jeremy Lyle,

Carp control in the Murray–Darling Basin


This project investigated the current and future impact costs of European Carp (Cyprinus carpio) in Australian waterways, particularly the Murray–Darling Basin, and the costs and benefits of carp biocontrol through the proposed release of cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3). The project provided critical information on the potential costs and benefits associated with carp and carp biocontrol for decision-makers assessing the proposed control of carp in Australia through the National Carp Control Plan.

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Peter Chudleigh,

Traceability systems for wild-caught lobster


This project has raised awareness of the importance of traceability within and along the Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) supply chain. The research team has engaged with the industry on current practices, and identified and demonstrated, through trial and evaluation, a range of mechanisms, tools and techniques to enhance Southern Rock Lobster (SRL) traceability systems.
The production of a ‘traceability implementation’ guide provides the SRL industry with a genuine opportunity to take a step forward to ‘better traceability practices’, and it opens up the possibility for the industry to consider the development of a traceability platform for coordination and integration of an industry-wide traceability system.

Based on the results and outputs from this project, it is evident there are still several challenges to the implementation of standard industry-wide traceability practices. However, this project has demonstrated a way forward, as well as making recommendations that would help in achieving this goal.

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Laurie B Bonney,

Annual fish biology annual conferences



In the face of mounting pressure on Australia’s marine and freshwater ecosystems, there is a need for robust scientific information to support the sustainable development and management of our aquatic resources. The Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) is Australasia’s premier professional association for fish and fisheries researchers. From 2016 to 2019, the society’s annual science conferences and associated workshops have made an important and tangible contribution to skill development of people involved in fish and fisheries research and management. In particular, they have offered students and early career researchers opportunities to present their work, interact with peers and develop collaborative links.

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Chris Fulton,

Risks for SA’s under-utilised species



South Australia’s Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) is facing a number of complex issues that are affecting business profitability and stock sustainability. One particular issue relates to the long-term reliance of the fishery on the three primary finfish species King George Whiting, Snapper and Southern Garfish, which has compromised the status of a number of their stocks. This project undertook to identify marine scalefish taxa (species or groups of species) that could sustainably support higher levels of commercial production. A risk assessment workshop concluded any increase in fishery catch constituted too great a risk to population sustainability for 13 taxa. However, 13 other taxa were considered capable of sustaining higher catches. These involved nine taxa of finfish, two species of sharks, as well as the Octopus spp and Sand Crabs. Achieving increases in catches would involve some challenges for fishery management and the commercial fishing sector. These pertain to easing fishing restrictions on some species without doing the same for fully exploited taxa. Furthermore, for most taxa, any increase in catch would need to be shared with the recreational sector. Also, for Ocean Jackets and Blue Mackerel, the bulk of the biomass is located in offshore waters outside the gulfs, which would make it challenging to gear up for appropriate fishing operations.
More information: Anthony Fowler,

Seafood industry’s ‘Our Pledge’



The Australian seafood industry has clearly identified social licence and community perceptions as critical issues for its ongoing viability and prosperity.
To help improve the industry’s social licence, this project aimed to develop a clearer understanding of community and industry values and underpinning behaviours to identify threats to social licence and behaviours community would like to see reinforced by industry.

This project collated and evaluated community values and expectations regarding the Australian seafood industry with the shared values and practices of the seafood industry itself, in order to develop a commitment from industry to the Australian public regarding its intent to serve the common good and to improve its social licence to operate. Comparison of community values and expectations of the seafood industry with the actual values and practices of the seafood industry indicated good alignment between the two. The core values and practices identified as mutually important became the basis for the formation of the elements of the ‘Our Pledge’ statement, which was finalised using an extensive internal industry and external community survey-based review process.

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Southern Rock Lobster cold chain



Southern Rock Lobsters (SRLs) are a premium, high-value product, where the end-product quality is a key indication of the performance of the export supply chain. Catch quality by fishers and subsequent handling must be effectively managed throughout the supply chain as the product is highly sensitive to poor handling and temperature variation during transit.

The key findings of this project include the identification of key issues faced in the live export supply chain for SRLs, proposed solutions to address them, and implementation work packages to assist the industry with actioning these solutions.

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Peter Liddell,