Project number: 2013-711.30
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $64,500.00
Principal Investigator: Janet Howieson
Organisation: Curtin University
Project start/end date: 14 Aug 2015 - 14 Jan 2016


Approximately 25,000 tonnes of finfish is not harvested in Australia each year, even though operators are licensed to do so. This is because the fish have a low market value (leatherjacket), are difficult to process (Boarfish), are very fragile and require an exacting supply chain to reach the market in satisfactory condition (sardines, Australian Salmon) or are harvested from remote areas with inadequate support infrastructure. Additional tonnage is harvested but directed to low value products such as pet food, bait and aquaculture feed (sardines, mackerel, silver warehou, bonito tuna). There are also areas (e.g. Western Deep Trawl) where little is know about the fishery resource and potential
for commercialization. And there are also fish discarded after being caught due to low market value or insufficient space for storage. Each of these under-utilised species can be used to produce high quality, fresh and processed products that could help meet the increasing demand for seafood.


1. Develop at least two new commercial opportunities for underutilised/low value species.
2. Develop and trial a framework for taking underutilised species to market

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9925568-9-1
Authors: Dr Janet Howieson Kerri Choo Andrew Tilley Sarah Crisp
Final Report • 2019-04-01 • 1.01 MB


This report summarises the research undertaken undera suite of activities that formed FRDC 2013/711.30
Using information taken from a variety of fisheries management and market sources, an underutilised species database was developed based on harvested volumes and price (see appendix 1). Initially the database was focused on Western Australia but, following increased stakeholder interest, it was later broadened to include the majority of Australian fisheries. 
A number of case studies for this particular project were selected based on information from the database and on meeting certain parameters under a value chain analysis framework that had been developed in a previous project undertaken with the prawn industry (Seafood CRC 2007-793.10). In order to be undertaken, case studies required whole of chain industry commitment to the project with a proposed path to market. The undertakings of each case study are detailed in the appendices.
Although the New Opportunities for Underutilised Species project resulted in several new products becoming available commercially and a number of others undergoing market trials, it also identified a number of challenges when working with underutilised species
The project succeeded in identifying and collating a range of opportunities for underutilised species in the Australian commercial fishing industry. It also demonstrated that it is possible to work with commercial partners to realise commercially relevant outcomes from these species. It is therefore recommended that the best approach for the Australian Seafood industry to generate opportunities from underutilised species is to use the database and value chain and product development methodology as much as possible but with modifications, if required. However it is also important to note the challenges of such research, including ensuring whole of value chain commitment, flexibility around commercial volatility and patience and awareness of these issues should always be considered in any further project development. Equally, it is key to ensure technological new product innovations are end-user and market-driven and specifically targeted to each particular underutilised species case study.

Project products

Research data • 2019-04-01 • 168.79 KB


At the commencement of the project an underutilised species Excel database was developed. The database was intended to describe the species, fishery, catch method, total allowable catch, actual catch and pricing as appropriate to allow the informed selection of possible case studies to be included in the project. The criteria for inclusion in the database for underutilised species was related to the harvest levels when compared to the commercially relevant tonnage able to be caught and retained, and current market value (<6/kg for whole fish).
The database was originally developed to focus solely on Western Australia fisheries but it was later broadened to all Australia as it was anticipated it would be a useful tool for all states, even after the current project was finished.
This database is alsoutilised as part of: 2017-185: A review of projects concerned with improved exploitation of underutilised species 
Report • 2019-04-01 • 5.05 MB


In November 2013 Dr Janet Howieson presented on the previous Australian Salmon research results (see Seafood CRC 2008-794.10) at the South Coast Professional Fishermans Association (SCPFA) Annual Management Meeting. As a result of that presentation an Australian Salmon industry development group (IDG) (consisting of fishers, processors and marketers) was formed to oversee the research effort. In December 2013 a workshop (facilitated by Ewan Colquohoun) was held with the IDG and other stakeholders to develop objectives/program/parameters for the Australian Salmon case study. For further desktop research by Colquohoun on Australian Salmon options see Appendix 3.
In this case study, Australian Salmon value add opportunities were explored for a range of products, as canned, smoked, fish in oil and premium pet food products, which were developed and market tested. The development and market-testing methodologies are presented in this report. However, although opportunities and small-scale markets were identified, the growth of the sector is hindered by the inability of the fishers at present to produce large volumes of high quality product. New management and harvest strategies are in development in order to address this issue.
Report • 2017-12-01 • 412.54 KB


Note: This report is available on request from the PI or FRDC - A summary of the project is available in the 2013-711.30 final report, as well as below
The Pilbara Trawl case study, conducted in conjunction with MG Kailis, Westmore Seafoods, Central Seafoods, Catalanos Seafoods, Endeavour Foods, followed on from an approach by MG Kailis and Westmore Seafoods about how to add value to some of the high volume, low value species harvested in the Pilbara finfish trawl. It is currently often not economically viable to retain this catch.
Catch data was collected for 2011-2014 and all harvested species analysed as per the value chain methodology. Based on catch volume and current market prices as well as consultation with processors and end-users, a list of possible target species was developed. These species were Rosy Threadfin Bream, Bluespotted Emperor, Trevally (smaller size), Robinson’s Seabream, Frypan Bream and Tropical Snappers (Lutjanus spp). A whole of chain Group Explorer Pilbara finfish stakeholder meeting was then facilitated to determine the focus of the case study. It was agreed the main focus would be on cost effective production and retail trial of filleted and headed and gutted product. As such the ongoing research plan was to focus on understanding the relative recoveries, costs and quality of product produced by local production (hand filleting), off shore production or by filleting machine. Initial work was completed with local processors and import and export permits for the target species were applied for and granted. The agreed next stage was to investigate different product forms produced under the different processing scenarios. However the off-shore filleting trials had to be cancelled due to some quality assurance issues with the off-shore facility therefore instead, local operators embarked on a filleting and marketing trials with bluespotted emperor in particular. Despite planned automatic processing options being cancelled due to commercial issues, resulted in a number of former underutilised species such as Bluespotted Emperor, Frypan Bream and Tropical Snappers (Lutjanus spp) achieving improved market status
Report • 2017-12-01 • 413.16 KB


Note: This report is available on request from the PI or FRDC - A summary of the project is available in the 2013-711.30 final report, as well as below
The Saddletail Snapper case study, conducted in conjunction with Australia Bay Seafoods, Catalanos Seafoodexplored Saddletail Snapper and the use of a technological innovation involving the injection with a plant based processing enzyme (bromelain) into the fish to improved product texture consistency.
Saddletail Snapper fillets sometimes exhibit an inconsistent ‘tough’ texture upon cooking; this has had a detrimental impact on the marketability of the species resulting in significant unharvested quota. Research has identified a positive correlation between the increasing age of the fish and increasing ‘toughness’ of the cooked fillet. However, despite this relationship, there is still substantial variability in the ‘toughness’ of fish of similar age. This limits the commercial viability of using fish age as a predictor of cooked texture as it involves the costly and time-consuming exercise of aging the growth rings of the ear bones (sagittae otoliths). This study explored an injection process to provides a consistent Saddletail Snapper product with improved textural properties. Large scale commercialisation has been achieved and Australia Bay Seafoods is currently developing marketing material and researching suitable markets for the products.
Report • 2018-12-01 • 1.34 MB


This case study, conductd in conjunction with West Coast deep sea licence holders, Southern Trading Pty Ltd, looked at new options for Champagne Crab, which is characterised by low market acceptance due to low meat yields and the difficulty in extraction, and difficulty in handling due to the spines. The study involved high pressure pasteurisation (HPP) trials.
In terms of overseas markets, the main market for the crabs is China via live export. The crabs are sold in small quantities on the local market, either live or cooked and as a whole animal however they are undervalued because the meat is difficult to extract after cooking and the spines make the product difficult to handle. In addition, Champagne Crab are not as highly prized on the export markets as other deep sea crab species because of their smaller size, less favourable colour and handling issues. In terms of the domestic market, champagne crabs are not a species well known for eating and as such, are in little demand. Again this is mainly because it is too time-consuming to extract the meat after cooking.
This study confirmed that Champagne Crab has a very sweet flavour and texture and if cooked whole and then frozen, a very acceptable thawed product can be produced. However, there were a couple of issues identified such as although the hairs did not appear to cause tainting, there may be a risk for consumption if the meat is not extracted for use as a food ingredient prior to serving and if the crabs are frozen raw then later thawed and cooked this results in the flesh being very mushy. In addition, the barriers to the product other than as a live product remain in that there are very low meat recovery yields and the difficulty in extraction due to the spines and the hardness of the shell. The results overall were promising enough for the Champagne Crab to be included in the HPP trials as described in Appendix 6. In these trials, efficient raw meat extraction, with pleasing flavour characteristics was achieved, and ongoing work with the champagne crabs has been proposed by the industry partners
Report • 2017-12-01 • 2.66 MB


HPP technology was also tested on 16 seafood products (including Akoya Oysters, Mussels, Abalone, Prawns, Deep Sea Bugs, Marron, raw finfish fillets, cooked finfish, Octopus, Squid, cooked Crab meat and cooked whole crab). New opportunities associated with meat extraction, shucking and extended shelf-life are currently still under investigation. One new product – HPP cooked crab meat with extended shelf-life - was taken to market and was a Finalist in the 2017 WA Delicious awards.
Report • 2015-08-01


Consultation wasundertaken face-to-face and confidentially with all of the Australian Salmon licence holders in Western Australia. This consultation process included all beach seine fishers in both the South and South West fisheries. This independently managed desk research and consultation process undertaken in April 2015 identified a number of findings, which are reported in this appendix.

Related research