Project number: 2009-324
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $336,542.73
Principal Investigator: Jodie Dean
Organisation: Nuffield Australia
Project start/end date: 31 Mar 2010 - 29 Apr 2014


The long-term capacity of Australia's aquaculture and fishing industry to compete and succeed internationally will be determined by the ability of Australian producers to recognise changing consumer preferences, adopt new technologies and production practices and maintain the sustainability of their operations by protecting their production environment.

To do this they need to be knowledgeable about the forces shaping international trade policy in key markets, the issues behind consumer sentiment and the technological advances being made by producers in other countries. They need to be able to digest this information and then use it to make rational management decisions, which position their enterprises to benefit from international opportunities as they arise. All of this lies at the heart of the Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarship program.

Each year, Nuffield Australia awards Scholarships to selected primary producers throughout Australia. The objective of these scholarships is to increase practical farming knowledge, improve management skills and encourage the use of new and innovative production techniques. These scholarships give Australian citizens the opportunity to study farming practices in New Zealand, Europe, Asia and the Americas and countries relevant to the Scholar's interests.

This project addresses the goal of the FRDC’s People Development Program (the Program) which is to develop the capabilities of the people to whom the industry entrusts its future by investing in research and development activities that:
1. enhance industry leadership within all sectors;
2. build industry capacity to drive change to achieve goals;
3. encourage knowledge transfer and R&D adoption;
4. build workforce capability; and
5. recognise and promote achievements.

Particular focus is given to the outcomes sought under objective 3 - encourage knowledge transfer and R&D adoption.


1. To build the capacity of the aquaculture/fishing industry to overcome the challenges of a global and internationally competitive environment through the provision of FRDC support for an annual Nuffield Farming Scholarship for an aquaculture or fishing producer for the next three years.


Author: Ben Ralston
Report • 2015-10-01 • 1.82 MB
2009-324-DLD-Ben Ralston Report.pdf


A changing culture, education and a robust supply chain are three very important roles in Australia’s oyster industry. The Australian oyster culture is changing with the help of international chefs and one particular oyster finisher, Steve Feletti; who has been leading the way in changing the oyster culture in the way he sells and markets his oysters.

In the past, Australian oyster farmers sold live oysters in bulk to processors who would shuck the oyster and rinse the oyster meat under a fresh water shower. This method is becoming less respected and is seen as a lower profit way of selling oysters from the farm gate. 

The majority of the worlds’ oyster supply will see oysters being sold live and oysters will be shucked, either to order at restaurants and markets, or taken home and shucked in household kitchens. The reason behind this is the oyster remains alive until it has been shucked and then it will be served in its own natural juice.  In fact, in some countries it is against the law to serve or handle oysters the same way Australians do. Educating the consumer is about teaching them how to handle, shuck and serve live oysters. The future opportunities for farmers are to sell live oysters with higher value or profit margins.

Re-modelling the supply chain is the aim of the study. The supply chain needs to be robust and add value. This needs to start at government and policy level; fed through to farmers, transport, restaurants; and finish at the consumers. The lack of communication between government, oyster associations, oyster committees and farmers is becoming an increasing issue.  

The recommendations of this report show how a stronger supply chain could add value. The winners will be farmers changing their supply chain to the value chain, restaurants/markets selling higher quality, and the consumers getting value for money.

Project products

Report • 2015-10-01 • 916.15 KB
2009-324-DLD-Ewan McAsh Report.pdf


Globally,  seafood  consumption  is  on  the  rise.  This  rise  in  demand  provides  this  Aquaculture  Industries with the opportunity to increase production and profitability. The New South Wales (NSW) Oyster Industry in particular, has a huge potential to capitalise on this trend.

The  NSW  Oyster  Industry  has  a  world-­‐class  quality  assurance  program  and  healthy,  export  classified estuaries producing high quality shellfish. However, the industry is in serious decline. It is plagued by decreasing production and poor profitability and without significant intervention in the next few years, the industry is at real risk of disappearing.

Strategic planning was critical in the success of the once failing Australian Wine Industry. Key aspects of that, and other successful industry strategic plans include:

  • An ambitious and engaging vision for the future;
  • Industry ownership of the strategic plan; and
  • Strong leadership with a whole of industry approach.

An  industry  driven  strategic  plan  is  vital  to  create  an  envisioned  future  of  the  NSW  Oyster  Industry  and  unlock  its  potential.  A  NSW  Strategic  Plan  would  detail  the  scale  and  scope  of opportunity.  It  would  also  form  the  framework  so  that  on  a  day-­‐to-­‐day  basis,  individual  businesses,  the  NSW  Farmers  Association,  the  Government  and  supportive  Non-­‐Government Organisations (NGO's) can all work towards this vision together. Furthermore, it will serve as a catalyst and rallying point to revitalise the NSW Oyster Industry and help ensure its long-­‐term survival, growth and success.

Report • 2015-10-01 • 1.37 MB
2009-324-DLD-Clint Scharfe report.pdf


The focus of this research was about using the positive aspects of other industries, particularly other prawn fishing industries, throughout the supply chain.  The objectives of this research were to:

  1. Investigate new technologies and how they could be applied in South Australia.
  2. Learn about management practices in other fisheries and identify those that could improve the performance of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery and prawn fisheries in Australia more generally.
  3. Identify how product differentiation will improve prawn prices (including the value of an internationally recognised environmental accreditation system, ie Marine Stewardship Council certification).

Through the research conducted, there are several opportunities that have been identified to improve the performance of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery in the international market as well as within the fishery itself.  In particular, there is a need to highlight Australia’s stringent food safety standards overseas and a need for better labelling of product (ie so other inferior product is not sold as Australian).  There are also opportunities for live prawn exports that obtain higher prices, which need further investigation and research.  Additionally, consideration needs to be given to the current operations of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, in relation to vessel numbers; there would be a greater advantage to those in the fishery to have fewer operators.  Furthermore, should the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery introduce a mechanism, which reduces the fleet size, there are new technologies that can assist with processing product on board vessels.

Report • 2015-10-01 • 1.29 MB
2009-324-DLD-Wayne Dredge Report.pdf


Australia’s Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) is a multi-species fishery that covers nearly 50% of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is made up of seven different fishing sectors. The total economic value of the fishery in (2014-2015) was AU$68 million (Patterson, et al., 2016) and unlike many other high value Australian fisheries, mainly supplies the domestic market with fresh finfish and shark. 

Within the SESSF is the Shark Gillnet sector which predominantly targets Gummy shark in the Commonwealth waters off Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA). The biological stock of Gummy shark is considered sustainable with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1,836 tonnes and commercial catches are reported in 16 separate fisheries across southern Australia. The demersal gillnets used to catch Gummy shark are considered a passive, selective and low impact form of fishing. 

In response to a report by Goldworthy et al, (2009) suggesting that the failure of the Australian Sea Lion (ASL) population to recover from sealing activities in the 18th and 19th centuries was in part, due to high levels of bycatch mortality within the Shark Gillnet sector, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) imposed formal fishery closures encompassing 6,300 km2 in June 2010 to protect known ASL breeding sites. Since May 2011 further closures were implemented to strengthen ASL protection and reduce the incidence of gillnets interacting with dolphins, bringing the total area closed to gillnet fishing to 129,992 km2. 

These closures had a significant economic impact on fishers and onshore businesses that relied on the shark fishery. Many businesses believe that in order for them to become economically viable again alternative fishing methods must be found which can be used to target Gummy shark in areas closed to gillnet fishing. 

Report • 2015-10-01 • 3.69 MB
2009-324-DLD-Rhys Arangio Report.pdf


The Australian toothfish industry began in 1994 when commercial quantities of Patagonian toothfish were found by Austral Fisheries off Macquarie Island in Australia’s sub-Antarctic waters.  Today, there is also a commercial stock at Heard Island & McDonald Islands (HIMI) and both these toothfish fisheries are independently certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council.  These fisheries contribute approximately $50 million per annum to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and account for around 14% of the world’s Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish tonnage.  There are two companies that own the rights to fish for toothfish in Australian waters, Austral Fisheries (who hold around 74% of quota) and Australian Longline (who hold around 26%).

Austral Fisheries operate two toothfish vessels, a longline/trap vessel and a trawler.  The company’s aim is to replace the trawler with an additional longliner in 2013 to increase the amount of longline caught fish taken from the fishery.  Longline and trap caught fish are of a premium quality over trawl caught fish, while reducing the impact on the fish stock1 and reducing the potential impact on the seabed.  

With an increased portion of longline caught fish there is also an increased risk of being affected by marine mammal depredation.  In our case, this is most likely to occur from Sperm whales and potentially Killer whales.  In other toothfish fisheries such as the French Crozet Islands fishery, these whales take up to 75% of the fish from the line when they are present (Roche, et al., 2007), which has a serious detrimental effect to the fisherman’s profits.

Report • 2015-10-01 • 1.17 MB
2009-324-DLD Dennis Holder Report.pdf


The majority of Australia’s fishing fleet is outdated. That is, combustion engines are the typical form of power generation. As power generation technology has superseded traditional diesel engines in the last three decades, there is enormous room and requirement for improvement.

This report examines the prospect of building a modern fishing vessel using the latest technology of propulsion, power storage and power generation. 

The author visited six countries on this study topic including The Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Florida (USA), Brussels and Norway, which was a major highlight. Here, the author experienced an electric fishing boat for a full day, met with ship designers, factory tank test hulls, and visited battery and fishing manufacturers.

A key outcome from the study is the evident significant barriers associated with regulations reducing uptake of newer technology. 

Electric and hybrid power generation systems have been successfully utilised in Scandinavia and other parts of mainland Europe. Electric motors provide more power and vessels can utilise smaller engine units and conserve space for additional cargo, catch or crew.

The added efficiencies associated with electric motors like thermal waste re-use, allow for further reductions in required power on board fishing vessels.

In addition, hull design enhances the efficiency of power conversion of electric motors and battery storage solutions are able to capitalise on commercial fishing conditions.

In summary, with new technology it is possible to reduce fuel costs by up to 80%, reduce maintenance costs by up to 50% and positively address occupational health and safety fatigue management and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the industry. 

The now ‘old’ technology in fisheries needs to be supported with legislative framework to adopt today’s available technology. Then, it will become appealing to the younger generations.  

Report • 2015-10-01 • 1.06 MB
2009-324-DLD Ben Tyley Final Report.pdf


This study is for the purpose of rebuilding the lobster stocks and sustainably managing the future harvest of primarily the Northern Zone rock lobster fishery. Over the past 10 years the total catch of the zone has been steadily decreasing to the present all time low.

The industry has in this time had a complete change of management plans, going from input controls to output restrictions, in the form of individual transferable quota. Since the shift to quota management 7 years ago the total allowable catch has been annually reduced until 2009, hoping to leave more breeding stock in the sea.

The aim of my study has been to network with fishermen, fisheries managers and scientists from the northern hemisphere, where the lobster fishery has survived since the early 1800’s, and in places like Nova Scotia which are having record catches.

Travelling through Maine and Canada’s east coast where in excess of 25% of the worlds annual lobster catch is caught gave me the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with significant stake holders in the industry. The UK and Ireland also have a similar length history of lobster fishing, but their stock levels are significantly lower. This made for an interesting look at different methods of management and fisheries control.

One of the major differences between the North American fisheries and the South Australian fishery is the amount of scientific research being done. Canada and the U.S. have numerous research bodies and facilities, with the fishing industry and the community (through sponsorship) funding many of these. 

One of the most encouraging projects that has just been started in Canada is the study of DNA profiles in lobster. The benefits of being able to trace where a lobster egg hatches, and the path the paurulas take before settling to the sea floor could be invaluable to rebuilding stock levels in lobster fisheries all around the world.

Significant change in the way forward could come in trap design. This is something that has not been changed in the northern zone since moving from input controls when a standard trap was necessary for management purposes. Now that quota management is in place a more efficient trap would mean less time the traps are in the water, therefore less by-catch and lower mortality rates of trapped lobster. This would result in lower running costs for fishermen and more fish being left in the sea.

Another key difference between our industries is public perception. The North American fisheries have strong community support and public understanding of the value of the fishing industry. They are using some brilliant educational and promotional tools that could be well utilized by the Australian industry, to give a better understanding of the fisherman’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the marine resources.

After talking to lobster fishermen and fisheries managers in other sectors of the world, South Australia’s rock lobster industry needs to better promote its self to the general public. It could be said much damage was done in the 60’s and 70’s with the style of fishing compared to the present. Awareness of the environment and marine eco system preservation is very much a part of today’s fishing practice.

Although there is always room for improvement in management plans, the Northern Zones current plan is more detailed than any I saw in the Northern Hemisphere, which I found encouraging.

Report • 2015-10-01 • 557.07 KB
2009-324-DLD Marty Phillips.pdf


Barramundi farming in Australia is coming under increased pressure from cheaper imported product from South East Asia.  Even the Basa (Pangasius) Catfish industry in Vietnam, a large source of much of the cheap imported product is struggling to remain profitable at the moment because prices are so low.  Production in these countries is less regulated and has a far lower cost of production. If Australian producers are to survive in this climate they will have to implement systems to differentiate and promote their product, as being different from the competitors. Underlying any promotion program there must be a high level of product quality. Some aquaculture production systems in Australia can suffer flesh quality issues which must be overcome to ensure consumer confidence in this iconic Australian fish.

To address the issue of low cost imports I visited the Scottish Salmon Industry who experienced similar problems several years ago with cheaper product coming from Chile and Norway. The industry needed to promote the high quality product they knew they cultured compared to the imported fish and hence developed a program called Scottish Quality Salmon. This was the basis for developing the Tartan Quality Mark and Label Rouge Brand. This program has also been the basis for helping industry address the increasing pressure of Government regulators on their industry which is also a major issue to the Barramundi Industry in Australia. Cheaper imports are also a problem in the other industries visited, including the Trout industry in the UK; the Trout industry in Denmark; several recirculation industries (including Sturgeon, Eels, African Catfish, and Pike Perch) in the Netherlands; the Catfish industry in the USA; and several other smaller industries in the USA.

To examine the flesh ‘off flavour’ issue experienced by many aquaculture industries, I also visited a number of experts, in the abovementioned sectors.

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