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DATE 10 May 2022
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We are continuing to build our new national network of extension officers to directly engage with the people involved in fishing and aquaculture, to increase the adoption of research outcomes and to help tailor research and development (R&D) to their needs.  

In April’s FRDC News, we introduced you to Nathan Bicknell (South Australia) and Dr Matthew Jones (Victoria). We are pleased to now introduce three more extension officers, based in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. You can read more about the network here. Stay tuned for announcements of extension officers to be based in Queensland and Tasmania. 

Kris Cooling, NSW 

Kris has worked across a wide spectrum of roles in fisheries and aquaculture since completing First Class Honours in Marine Science and Management at Southern Cross University in 2011.

He has worked for the NSW Department of Primary Industries as a technician and researcher and as an observer on commercial fishing vessels, as a technician at a trout hatchery; as a research assistant for universities, and as floor manager for one of the largest fishing tackle stores in Australia.

While he was working as a fisheries observer in the NSW Estuary General Fishery, it became clear that bait cost and access was a concern, so Kris ran a study comparing the pest species, European carp (Cyprinus carpio), to two commonly used trap baits, Sea Mullet (Mugil cephalus) and Luderick (Girella tricuspidata). 

‘Our results showed Carp to be as effective a bait as Luderick and Mullet for male blue swimmer crabs,’ he says. ‘In the right context, Carp is cheaper than both and offered the bonus of utilising a pest species. Using Carp for bait meant fishers could sell the Luderick or Mullet they caught for human consumption instead, plus it took demand off these native species. The fishers enjoyed contributing to research and the findings were well received by the local industry.’ 

Kris grew up at Taree, NSW, and is a keen fisher, diver and surfer. He has done volunteer work on cuttlefish behaviour studies, coral health, and aquatic conservation projects with Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory. 

He enjoys connecting fishers and other stakeholders to relevant research and is keen to utilise their insights and innovation in regional and national projects. 

‘There’s an existing stable of research that would be hugely beneficial to people involved in fishing and aquaculture but they are busy, they haven’t got the time to go searching through the scientific literature to find a solution that’s right for them. 

‘Meeting face to face with people is really valuable, even if it is just kicking tubs down at the local fishing co-op,’ he says. 

‘I enjoy meeting people in their own area, as ,they are often more comfortable and open to productive conversations when they are in familiar surroundings and they appreciate you making the effort to visit.’

Felicity Horn, WA 

Felicity has 20 years of advocacy experience representing Western Australia’s commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors and a Bachelor of Science in Aquatic Resource Management - Aquaculture.

She was formerly executive officer of the Shark Bay Prawn Trawler Operators’ Association and part time administrative officer for the Aquaculture Council of WA. She has also served as a Board member of the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) and the Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries. . Felicity worked for the WA Fishing Industry Council for 14 years, including as executive officer, during this time, she travelled extensively throughout WA to meet with stakeholders in recreational and commercial fishing, Traditional Owners, conservation groups and government representatives.

Among her career achievements, Felicity played a key role in assisting commercial, recreational and charter fishing interests to reach agreement on resource sharing issues and had a lead role in the Shark Bay Prawn Fishery's Marine Stewardship Council certification program. 

Felicity grew up in a Rock Lobster fishing family in Dongara, WA and is passionate about ensuring that the state’s seafood industry is recognised by the broader community as sustainable, responsible, and valuable.

She is keen to support industry and other stakeholder groups to access R&D opportunities in her role as FRDC extension officer. 

‘I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a gap in this area for a while with many across our sectors wanting to invest in research but not having the time to look into it or knowing how to go about it. I’d like to see this role bridge that gap.’ 

Felicity says as a Board member for the Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries, she has seen the practical value of investment in research on topics such as onboard processing and is keen to help other seafood sectors reap similar benefits.

‘The seafood industry is facing a lot of challenges now, such as the loss of the Chinese market, reductions in some government services, the huge cost of diesel and the rollout of marine parks,’ she says. 

‘People in the industry have had their heads down in survival mode, so I’m keen to support them to maximise R&D in areas that will make a tangible difference to their future. ‘ 

Lauren Thornton, NT 

A keen angler with a background in natural resources management and stakeholder relations, Lauren has worked in various capacities for Kakadu National Park through Parks Australia since 2017. She has been based in Darwin for the past eight months, working with Aboriginal communities to develop new tourism businesses and commercial activities connected with the park.

Previously, she was based in Jabiru, where she managed customer service staff and developed strong networks with Traditional Owners, local businesses and government agencies. Thornton has a Bachelor of Applied Science in ecotourism and she engaged with professionals and scientists to learn more about their work so that she could educate stakeholders and visitors about the work of Parks Australia. She also travelled to remote areas for activities and consultation and coordinated cross-cultural teams of up to six staff to provide interpretation of Kakadu National Park.

While with Parks Australia, Lauren took part in many fishing, camping and boating shows to talk to recreational fishers and other members of the public about regulations that apply to Kakadu National Park and to provide safety information. 

Living within the park gave her opportunities to explore its many rivers and fish for barramundi, despite many close encounters with crocodiles. 

Lauren gained an insight into the fishing and aquaculture industry while working on sea going pearl farm vessels in the Northern Territory and Western Australia after leaving school.

She is keen to develop productive relationships between all sectors connected to fishing and aquaculture and to build on her established networks with Top End stakeholders.

‘Having the opportunity to learn about the research and working out the best ways to get it out to the community as an FRDC extension officer is a really exciting prospect,’ she says. 

She believes regular contact is key and is keen to immerse herself in community events, such as fishing competitions. 

‘I would like to see strong and inspiring relationships between all our fishing and aquaculture sectors, encompassing commercial fishing, aquaculture, Indigenous and recreational fishing.’ 

‘These communities must be fully supported with clear communication about relevant R&D so that Top End people and marine and aquatic life can thrive.’