Project number: 2016-224
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $95,000.00
Principal Investigator: Ewan A. Colquhoun
Organisation: Ridge Partners
Project start/end date: 31 Jul 2016 - 29 Jun 2018



Many Australian fisheries offer both yield and productivity growth, from two sources: - better use of their harvest, and broader harvest of underutilised species. Both options will deliver higher returns to fishers if collective planning and effort is harnessed with smart value adding.

The low A$ makes export (and potential reimport) of these value added products more attractive.

Demand for seafood in Asian consumer markets continues to grow strongly, reflecting the emergence of the Asian middleclass. This global megatrend is now directly creating opportunities for Australian seafood suppliers and consumers. In the last two years as the A$ currency has weakened significantly and domestic seafood demand has expanded further, many fisheries (e.g. SA King Prawn, NSW Whiting, Skull Island King Prawn) have started to export product to Asia for processing, and / or sale and reimport to Australia. New brands are appearing on Australian seafood shelves supplied (partially) by reimported product (e.g. MSC certified Skull Island King Prawns from the Gulf of Carpentaria). In addition to reimported product, the seafood importers (who supply >70% of seafood consumed in Australia) are finding it increasingly difficult to complete with Asian consumers to secure volume for their Australian based customers.

In recent years some fisheries (eg ETBF, SESSF) have not harvested their allocated TACs. For some SESSF species less than 50% of the quota is landed. In 2014/15 the SESSF landed 10,925t from a TACC of 26,086t, only 42% of TACC. There will likely be similar yield growth options in state and territory fisheries.

In 2001 Qld DPI completed a study (FRDC 1999/347) identifying underutilised species attractive for export to Asian consumer markets. Many species and markets identified remain targets for this proposal.

Many proposed solutions to increase yield and fishery returns address only the costs of fishery access and the cost of the harvest (on boat costs, fuel, etc).

This EOI takes a different, strategic and novel approach, based on the real economic and competitive circumstances outlined above.


1. A demonstration to Australian fishers and enterprises of the increase in the harvest of unutilised yield in selected Australia wild fisheries
2. A demonstration to Australian fishers of significant and sustainable increase in the returns to selected Australian fishermen from fishery yield growth and innovative value adding
3. A demonstration to Australian fishers of increased utilisation, yield and margin of seafood product into value added formats for new consumer markets

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-6487893-1-4
Author: Ewan Colquhoun
Final Report • 2020-09-01 • 2.04 MB


This project was commissioned by the FRDC with advice from New South Wales Professional Fisher’s Association (NSWPFA), and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). The project seeks to boost the returns of commercial wildcatch fishers on Australia’s East Coast, in two ways: (i) by increasing the legal harvest and use of underutilised species, and (ii) increasing fishers’ margins and returns through selective value-adding.
The project finds that all eleven Target Utilisation Species have potential for increased commercial utilisation.  But these utilisation pathways are diverse, as is their commercial ‘bankability’ - from a compelling business case through to a severe lack of data that precludes assessment.