The FRDC HDR has identified the lack of information on markets and price formation in Australian fisheries as a major research gap. The need for such analyses has also been discussed within the AFMA Economics working group, as such information was seen as essential in supporting fisheries management.
This project is an attempt to reduce this research gap. In doing so, the information produced will be of benefit to fisheries managers, fishers and the broader community as we move our fisheries closer to maximising net economic returns.
The focus of this study is on the markets relevant to the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF), which is the main supplier of fresh fish to the Sydney and Melbourne markets. To date, only very limited empirical research has been conducted for these fisheries in Australia [4-6], most of which is now fairly old and is unlikely to be valid for current market conditions. Since the early 2000s the seafood market in Australia has changed, for example, due to increasing seafood imports and increasing domestic aquaculture production. Hence, market dynamics for products supplied by domestic fisheries may have also altered.
This case study was identified by the FRDC HDR as of high importance due to the current challenges facing the fisher in terms of unfilled quotas. One potential contributing reason that quotas are not being taken is that to do so would result in lower prices; of potential benefit to consumers but not to producers. Instead, the lower catches may be supporting higher prices. The outcomes of this project can provide insights into the extent of to which the marker is contributing to quota undercatch.
The study will focus on the impact of changes in supply on the price received on the markets. While the potential response of fishers to these changes in price (including avoiding large catches) is also of relevance to fishery managers, this will require further bioeconomic modelling work that is beyond the scope of this study, but may be seen as a high priority for future research.
Data for the Melbourne market were limited following the closure of the central market in 2010. Despite this, the results of the cointegration analysis indicate that the Sydney and Melbourne markets were highly integrated over the period of the available data. That is, prices for a given species on each market tended to move together. Hence, the two markets can effectively be considered a single market, at least for the key Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery species examined. Differences in prices on the markets can still exist due to differences in transport costs, but price variations beyond these transportation cost differences are temporary.
On the Sydney market, prices of most species were found to be not cointegrated (i.e., not substitutes), but some cointegration was observed. In particular, Blue-eye Trevalla was cointegrated with several species suggesting this may be a market leader or at least a highly influential species in the market.
Imports were also found to be cointegrated with many of the species on the Sydney Fish Market, particularly imports of fresh fish. This indicates a strong substitution potential between imports and domestically caught fish, with increased import supply most likely having a negative impact on prices of Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery species.
From the results of the aggregated demand model, the increase in the quantity of imports has had a negative effect on the price of wild-caught species on the Sydney Fish Market over the last two decades, supporting the results of the cointegration analysis. Imports of fresh fish was found to have had a significant negative impact on the prices of species in the lower valued group in both the short and long term. While no short-term impact on high valued species was found, a small but significant negative impact was found in the long term. This suggests direct competition and potential for substitution between imports of fresh fish and the lower valued domestic fish species. In contrast, imports of frozen fish were found to complement lower valued species. That is, increased imports of frozen fish were related to increased prices for these lower valued species. No significant relationship between frozen fish and higher valued species was found.
The increase in salmon production was also found to have had a negative impact of prices of both groups (high and low valued) on the Sydney Fish Market, more so that imports.
At the species level, own-price flexibilities were generally found to be between -0.3 and -0.6, indicating that prices change less than proportionally with quantity landed (i.e., are relatively price inflexible). That is, a 10 per cent increase in quantity landed, for example, of each species would result in a 3 to 6 percent decrease in its own price. Cross-price flexibilities – the impact of landings of one species on the price of another – were also found to be small, mostly between 0 and -0.1.
Conclusions: Changes in the quantity produced at the level of the industry can have an impact on the prices that producers receive. These price changes may extend beyond just one species in question, impacting also on potential substitute species.
The critical measures of this change are the own and cross-price flexibilities. Own-price flexibilities define the percentage change in the price of a species due to a 1 per cent change in landings or production, while cross-price flexibilities represent the percentage change in a different species due to the production change of a given species.
Individually, own and cross-price flexibilities are generally small. In the case of key fish species, they are mostly between -0.5 and zero, indicating a less than proportional change in price with landings or production. However, this means that changes in revenues from, say, a TAC increase will result in a less than proportional change in revenue, and with cross-price impacts also, increasing TACs may result in negligible revenue improvements. Fisheries managers in particular need to be aware of these changes, as increasing a TAC does not necessarily mean better returns to the fishery. Conversely, higher returns may be earned at lower levels of catch due to the combination of higher prices and less cost in catching the fish.
While lower prices may be bad for producers, lower fish prices provide benefits to consumers. Hence, what is optimal for the fishery or aquaculture industry may not be optimal for the community overall. Including consumer benefits into economic analyses underlying TAC and other decisions that impact production is an area of further consideration by fisheries and aquaculture managers.