Recent research shows general public support for Australia’s fishing industry (Sparks 2017; Voyer et al 2016) that depends on people’s assessments of industry’s commitment to implement best practice and demonstration of being effective environmental stewards (Mazur et al 2014). The FRDC has recognised external pressure for the fishing industry to move beyond compliance with environmental and other regulations and improve its performance in key areas, including animal welfare. As noted above, the FRDC has provided support for a range of research and industry initiatives to achieve positive aquatic animal welfare outcomes. The FRDC also recognises that further improvement to the seafood industry’s aquatic animal welfare practices are required.
Recent FRDC project investments has produced valuable knowledge about how when change is called for it is very important to recognise that multiple factors influence – positively and/or negatively - people’s decisions to take up those new, innovative, and/or different practices (i.e. 2017-133, 2017-046, 2017-221). These factors typically include personal values and belief systems, access to different kinds of resources required to make changes, particular features of the recommended practices, as well as a range of macro-levels factors that while they may be outside of people’s direct control still affect their choices. FRDC Project 2017-133 generated important insights about how and to what extent these kinds of factors have been keeping the seafood industry from making more substantive progress towards building greater stakeholder and community trust (Mazur & Brooks 2018).
Further work of this nature is now needed to shed greater light on aquatic animal welfare in the seafood industry (FRDC 2017-221). In particular the research should be focused on identifying the particular features of ‘best care’ for aquatic animals, the range of factors that may be obstructing industry members’ use of those practices, and examples of recent (extension) initiatives used to encourage better aquatic animal welfare.
A mixed-method approach was used to collect data and information for this research. These included a desk-top review, stakeholder consultation, and a set of interviews.
This Project identified a range of AAW practices used by some seafood producers that they believed to be ‘humane’. The Project also identified some factors enabling and impeding seafood producers’ approaches. Key factors supporting AAW uptake and adoption included a seafood producers’ openness to change and interest in learning, the relative advantages of using recommended practices, well designed and resourced extension, and positive relationships across industry, government and interest group networks.
This Project provides highly useful insights about AAW practices used by a small sample of Australian seafood industry members, which were primarily representatives of the wild-catch commercial fishing sector with two from the finfish aquaculture sector. This project’s findings support results from other recent Australian seafood industry research and policy initiatives, which have found that more appropriately designed and consistently-funded extension programs can help improve AAW uptake and adoption. However, AAW is a complex issue, and requires more than just extension. A range of carefully conceived and integrated policy instruments (e.g., market instruments, regulations) are needed to achieve substantive and lasting AAW practice change. Five recommendations have been formulated to help amplify enablers of and mitigate obstacles to AAW uptake and adoption. Suggested next steps include a workshop to draw out policy and industry-led options to enhance adoption, including feasibility of a risk assessment; and a case studies to test risk assessment and options to improve adoption.